Hey everyone, I’m very excited to bring you this Lost Thunder set review today! I haven’t enjoyed the Standard format too much lately, but this set looks insane and has so many good cards that I can’t wait to try out all the possibilities it brings.
I’ll be talking about my 10 favorite cards or card combinations in detail, but since the set is way too big and impressive to not go over even more cards, let’s begin with some honorary mentions.
Shuckle-GX is an amazing tech Pokemon that can fit into any deck and could become an important card if the metagame is right for it. The regular Shuckle single-handedly makes Alolan Exeggutor a very scary deck. Onix is a nice tech for decks with DCEs and Energy Acceleration to deal with Zoroarks. Magcargo-GX combos well with the regular Magcargo and can dish out a lot of damage while tanking hits. Alolan Meowth is a sneaky option to take a quick t1 KO and offset the disadvantage of going second. Faba is the return of Xerosic, but in even better! Counter Gain and Mina are cool new ways to accelerate Energy for all kinds of Pokemon. Sightseer is a good draw supporter for decks with discard synergies.
Other relevant cards that didn’t make the list will be mentioned in context of one of the top rated cards they work well with.
Lost Thunder’s cover Pokemon starts off this top 10 list. The card is very impressive, combining Darkrai’s Dark Cloak, Buzzwole’s Knuckle Impact and Turtonator’s Nitro Tank. The GX attack isn’t even restricted to Lightning Energy and can be used to charge up almost anything. Additionally, the set brings useful Lightning support in form of Thunder Mountain and Electripower.
However, I’m not sure how a deck around this card would look like in this format, and the Fighting weakness hurts a lot with the amount of Buzzwole and Lycanroc around. It might just end up being a support Pokemon in Rayquaza decks for now, but Zeraora has a lot of potential and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it become very relevant eventually.
Like Magcargo, or Octillery in past seasons, Zebstrika is a Stage 1 Pokemon that sits on the bench and helps draw into cards with its Ability. The cost of discarding the entire hand can be rough, so I expect it to be less popular than its predecessors. However, in the right deck, this Ability will be extremely powerful. Aggressive decks that don’t need to be mindful of every card left, that just want to take a KO every turn, will be happy about 4 completely fresh cards. With Octillery it was possible to get stuck on a bad hand, but Zebstrika completely solves such issues.
I can imagine it fitting in decks like Malamar or Blacephalon, as a 1-1 line along with a Ditto Prism Star. Lost March and Granbull are other new decks that could make good use of a Zebstrika. I’m sure we’ll see this card in a bunch of successful decks over the next few years.
8. Professor Elm’s Lecture
I’m not a fan of Zoroark’s Set-up engine in the current Standard format, so I’m very happy about this Brigette replacement. Getting 3 Zorua with a single supporter is just much more reliable than hoping to manually draw into Basics or Nest Balls. Even with a lot of search Items, a T1 Lillie doesn’t guarantee anything and feels like gamble every time. Elm will make Zoroark’s early game predictable again and help restore some of its lost power.
Like Brigette, it will also find a place in many other decks as their set-up supporter. Worth noting, Elm isn’t restricted to Basic Pokemon, so it can search for both Hoppip and Skiploom in the Lost March deck.
It’s easy to overlook this card while skimming over the set, and it might just be too difficult to get it to work consistently, but I think Granbull has a ton of potential. A non-GX with 130 HP that does 160 damage for 1 Energy? Pretty crazy. Having to completely empty the hand every turn puts up a lot of deck building restrictions, but the payoff is huge. Shun Ito, an accomplished Japanese player, piloted it to a very respectable 9th place at the most recent Champions League, and proved that this deck does indeed work. I would expect it to become one of the stronger non-GX decks in the format, but it’s hard to accurately judge a strategy like this without having tried it yet.
6. Lost March
The Lost March cards (Skiploom, Jumpluff, Natu, Trumbeak, Lost Mixer) have been getting a good amount of hype, and there’s reason for that. The archetype is of course reminiscent of Night March, as it permits big OHKOs with low HP 1-prize Pokemon. This is a strong concept and will probably be a good deck. However, I wouldn’t expect it to become as dominant as Joltik and friends were. It’s considerably slower, while Night March could reach as much as 200 damage on the first turn, Lost March will have problems getting to those numbers before later stages of the game. It needs to run more energy, has less good item cards at its disposal, and plays a much fairer game in general.
Nevertheless, I think Lost March will find its way into the format and be one of many good non-GX decks players will need to worry about. Compared to the alternatives, it has the obvious advantage of an unlimited damage cap, but the low HP enable additional counter strategies.
I don’t usually get excited about Stage 2 Pokemon, but Sceptile looks great. Discarding Special Energy and doing 60 damage for 1 energy is just good, and combined with some healing cards, would easily beat a lot of decks in the current format. The second attack is also strong, hitting the magic 130 damage for just 2 attachments, while conserving an energy, so it can combo with Acerola and Max Potion as well. The GX attack is not spectacular, but still a nice option, especially with a lot of spread strategies in the format.
Sceptile-GX is a good card on its own, but it wouldn’t be as high up on this list if not for two other cards: its Stage 1, Grovyle, and the regular Sceptile from Celestial Storm. Grovyle is literally the best prevolution it could have hoped for and makes the “Stage 2 inconsistency” aspect negligible. Sceptile CES is huge in a format full of Ultra Beasts and protects the deck from Blacephalon and Buzzwole.
I think the deck will fit well into the meta. Zoroark and Shrine should have a really hard time dealing with Sceptile. Hitting Lycanroc for weakness is also not irrelevant. The main problem will be decks that can OHKO while not being Ultra Beasts, most notably Necrozma based Malamar decks and Rayquaza.
4. Ditto Prism Star
If this article was about what card will appear in the most amount of decklists, Ditto would probably take the number one spot. Every deck with at least two different stage 1 lines will auto include this card, and even decks with only a single evolution line will likely want to play it as an additional Basic. There’s just next to no reason not to.
The reason I didn’t rate it even higher is that, even though it’s a nice and appreciated consistency boost for Evolution decks, it’s not a very high impact card. It does an excellent job, but won’t create new archetypes, or shake up the meta. Some lists might be able to get a bit crazier with thin Pokemon lines, but I don’t think relying on Ditto and playing multiple Stage 1 Pokemon without their Basics will be a good idea. Still, an upcoming staple and one of the best cards in the set.
3. Giratina + Spell Tag
Masataka Hirano, one of the most successful Japanese players in recent times, used these two powerful Psychic cards to win the Tokyo Champions League. Giratina is first and foremost a non-GX attacker for Malamar decks, just like Deoxys or Shining Lugia in our current format. It’s an upgraded version of both, with an attack that does 130 damage for 3 energy, 130 HP and Fighting resistance. Instead of having to discard an energy, it damages its own board, but that side effect is mostly neglectable. You can even put the damage on Giratina itself, if damaging the bench is too dangerous in a given situation. And as if the card wasn’t good enough already, it also got an awesome Ability. Whenever Giratina lands in the discard pile, you can just get it back for free, and put two damage counters onto the opponent’s board. A lot of games are decided by one player running out or whiffing an attacker at some point, but with a few Malamar, and a single Giratina, that’s not going to happen to you.
The second boost for Malamar decks is the Spell Tag tool card. It is basically an upgraded Bursting Balloon and works perfectly with Giratina. In a format without much Field Blower, it seems almost too good. Non-GX prize trade exchanges should favor the Giratina side anyway, but if throwing in a few Spell Tags to snipe an additional prize on something like Magcargo after just 2 triggers and 1 Ability use, they seem almost impossible to lose. That Natu in Lost March decks? Pretty easy target as well.
Against GX decks, the Spell Tags help to reach numbers for OHKOs, and once again swing the prize trade by doing so. 130 base damage, plus 10 from the Ability, plus 40 from a Spell Tag, is enough to knock out 180 HP Pokémon like Blacephalon-GX.
Masataka’s winning list makes a lot of sense and I would be surprised if it didn’t become the default Malamar version after the release of Lost Thunder.
2. Alolan Ninetales-GX
I was a big fan of this card ever since it was first revealed. Everything about it is good, but there’s no obvious best use for it, so players can get creative. The Tokyo CL demonstrated this beautifully, with 3 completely different decks using it to great effect.
The Ability is amazing and versatile at all stages of the game. Decidueye can search out Rare Candies to quickly swarm the board, Buzzwole can get its Beast Rings at exactly the right time, and one of the players even paired it with Custom Catcher. Every deck can greatly benefit from easy access to its Item cards, but there’s much more to like about this card.
Ninetales’ first attack is perfect for setting up KOs, and with a Choice Band can even OHKO a Rayquaza. The GX attack is an easy KO on Buzzwole and Blacephalon, surely two of the biggest threats in the upcoming format.
Perhaps one of the greatest things about Alolan Ninetales is that it evolves from one of the best Basic Pokemon in the format, Alolan Vulpix from Guardians Rising! Beacon is such a nice option to have, and to make it even better, it’s searchable by Brooklet Hill.
I’m sure Ninetales will continue the success it had in Japan and be seen in many successful decks in the future.
1. Blacephalon-GX + Naganadel
These two cards are clearly designed to be a top tier deck together, and I would expect them to succeed with that. The strategy is simple, get a lot of Energy onto the board with the use of Naganadel and Beast Ring, and then OHKO everything with Blacephalon.
This is comparable to other GX based high damage decks like Rayquaza Vikavolt, but it does have some advantages that I think could make it the best one in that category. Even though the deck is GX centred, it does have a lot of built in ways to swing prize trades. First of all, Blacephalon’s GX attack is a phenomenal T1 option and prevents being delayed by having to KO a non-GX later on in the game. Additionally, Naganadel is a very potent non-GX attacker, and has synergy with the aforementioned GX attack that should make it common to be at 3 prizes. Against Buzzwole decks, Naganadel can even act as the main attacker. Lusamine Prism Star is another potential way to turn games.
The deck doesn’t need much to function, and has access to a bunch of great consistency cards like Mysterious Treasure, Ultra Space and Heat Factory, so I expect it to run smoothly. A big turn two knockout should happen more often than not, and with access to Beast Ring it’s hard to imagine it running out of steam.
Blacephalon can also tech in Kiawe and a different Fire attacker like Reshiram or Ho-Oh, to have yet another way to play out games and a counter to Ultra Beast hate like Sceptile CES.
I think this is the most inherently powerful deck emerging out of Lost Thunder and expect it to show up in big numbers at most upcoming tournaments. It will probably do best in GX-focused metagames, and might struggle against 1-prize decks, but it does certainly have tools to keep up with those.
That’s it for the list, thanks for reading! Like I said at the start of this article, the set looks incredible and I expect it to completely shake up the Standard format. If you haven’t checked out the whole setlist yet, you can do so here. I’m excited to play with it in Brazil at the upcoming Latin American International Championships. Until next time!