First Light – The Beginning of a Sun and Moon Meta
by Aaron Clarke
In case you missed it, check out Aaron's first article going over the new changes with the Sun and Moon release here!
The first weekend of Sun and Moon has passed, and already the set is beginning to shape the meta, although perhaps not as wildly as was expected. Most decks have experienced a few small changes but the entirely new decks have yet to show themselves. The large percentage of players seemed to fall back onto safe picks while the meta shakes itself out.
Prominent Decks from Week One
These decks are all old favorites that can survive well against both the new Sun and Moon cards and Tauros GX. If the deck did not have the ability to easily OHKO, it didn’t do very well.
As a deck that has been dominant for quite some time, Darkrai was a safe pick. It also turned out to be the best deck. Even without Sun and Moon cards, it has very good matchups against most of the popular decks. But with Tauros GX, this was taken to a whole new level.
Tauros GX has the power to shape the game after just one turn of being in play. The obvious Ninja Boy into Tauros GX combo does have easy OHKO potential. That’s only one facet of the card. The other is when Tauros GX is left active for a turn, swinging for sixty even if it is left alone. The opposing player then has one of two options. Attack into Tauros GX and get killed by it, or hope desperately that they can find a Lysandre to attack something on the bench. All too often that Lysandre never shows up, and can force a pass to avoid getting obliterated by Mad Bull GX. At this point the game starts sliding out of control and the Tauros GX player is set up with a way to victory. But there are a few decks that can take care of a Tauros GX threat.
This was also a widespread deck. Mewtwo has a large number of varieties that have been popular ever since Night March left. For the recent events, most Mewtwo players chose the Garbodor version. Garbodor makes Volcanion an easy matchup, as well as other heavily ability-reliant decks. Mewtwo in all of its forms also has a way to kill Tauros GX.
If the Mewtwo player has enough time, they can build up the four energies (five if a Fighting Fury Belt is on Tauros GX) to one shot the bull, neutralizing all of its effectiveness. This is easier said than done. Realistically, it takes two turns to charge up that many energies. That doesn’t sound like too long, but if Mega Mewtwo EX gets targeted with Lysandre, it will take at least sixty damage and be unsafe to continue attaching to. Even worse, an Enhanced Hammer can delay Mega Mewtwo EX from taking the kill for at least another turn. While this isn’t a bad matchup, it can be a pitfall if Mega Mewtwo EX doesn’t get set up in time.
Volcanion’s consistency was evident once again, as it was one of the most popular decks. Volcanion EX can amp up damage as far as it needs with repeated Steam Ups. This allows it to one shot everything from a Tauros GX to a Mega. Combined with energy acceleration from the little Volcanion, the deck doesn’t need much to succeed.
If Volcanion EX is allowed access to Steam Up, it can give any deck a hard time. Unfortunately for it, the card that counters it the easiest is played in almost every deck. Hex Maniac completely shuts down Volcanion for a turn, which can swing the tempo of a game. This effect is amplified if Garbodor is in play, making Mewtwo a tough matchup. However, the reliability of Volcanion continues to give it popularity.
While Mega Rayquaza had very few appearances, most decks would’ve struggled against it. The speed and one shot potential that Mega Rayquaza EX possesses leaves it in good shape against Darkrai and Volcanion. This also means that Tauros GX will provide no issue for it.
The one struggle for Mega Rayquaza is Parallel City while under ability lock. This restricts the bench, while at the same time preventing Dragonite EX from easily recovering the lost Pokémon. The only notable deck that contains both of these is Mewtwo. Combined with the ability to kill a Mega Rayquaza EX with only four energies, Mewtwo is a bad matchup.
New Decks from the New Set
Amongst the popular decks, there were a few brave enough to concoct a deck based on new cards. While almost all of them were not successful, some showed enough potential that they could be powerful given time.
This was one of the cards with the most promise coming out of the new set. It has built in energy acceleration, healing, and a high HP. The GX attack also synergizes nicely with this, providing easy access to a huge attack. But this can only be used once, and leaves any variant of this deck with the same problem: it caps out at 120 damage a turn. This leaves Lurantis GX needing a partner that can offset this weakness.
Vileplume has been the most popular solution to the problem. The item lock provided by Vileplume slows down both decks, but Lurantis GX needs very little to get started. Forest of Giant Plants will provide for both Lurantis GX and Vileplume, and beyond that Lurantis GX only needs energies. 210 HP becomes a lot harder to kill without items, and this can keep a Lurantis GX in the game much longer, especially while it is healing itself.
Vileplume also locks out tool cards, which is where the problem arises. This leaves Lurantis GX very susceptible to attacks from Volcanion EX (no Weakness Policy) and Mega Mewtwo EX (no Assault Vest). On top of this, Lurantis also lacks a way to kill a Tauros GX. It can use the GX attack to take care of one, but after that it is left to Lysandre. But since Vileplume prevents the use of VS Seeker, the amount of Lysandre that can be played is limited. These losses leave Lurantis in a bad spot, at least until Tapu Bulu GX is released next set.
Espeon GX was a card that snuck up to the top. Before Anaheim, there was very little discussion of Espeon at all. At first glance, it doesn’t seem too powerful. The large attacks both require two energy attachments, and it is a Stage 1 Pokémon. For this price, the attacks seem just a little bit too weak. Psychic does 60 plus 30 more for each energy attached to the opponent’s active. This is great against a Mega Mewtwo EX, but it isn’t going to one hit any other Pokémon. To make matters worse, Divide GX comes up ten damage short of killing a Shaymin EX. These flaws make it hard to base a deck around.
Where Espeon GX shone was as a partner to Mega Mewtwo EX. It provides a GX attack, which a Mewtwo deck would not usually have access to, and also works as a backup attacker. Espeon GX makes a mirror match very easy, since Espeon GX OHKOs Mega Mewtwo EX while Mega Mewtwo EX requires four energies to hit it back. So far, this card seems like it could have potential.
The rise of these new cards has led to a few decks dying out, mostly due to Tauros GX. Both Greninja and Mega Gardevoir have been common appearances, but neither of these can one shot Tauros GX. This leaves Greninja with only two good matchups: Mewtwo and Volcanion. Even these decks can give it trouble if they get set up quickly. Gardevoir is in an even worse spot. It retains the auto win against Mewtwo, but loses to most other decks.
Being only one tournament into the new set means that anything could develop. But so far it seems like the ability to play around Tauros GX will determine a deck’s playability. Unfortunately, this also means that evolution decks will be weaker, since they cannot utilize Tauros GX as effectively, and also tend to be weak against the decks that can OHKO them. At this point, it appears that Sun and Moon will have an impact on the format, but not in the way that was expected.
Aaron Clarke is a four time Pokemon TCG World Championship competitor, including one Top 8 performance!