Hey guys, after skipping the last set due to time constraints, I am back to review our newest Sun & Moon expansion, Unbroken Bonds, in form of the classic top 10 list!
Like last time, I will try to mention just about every competitively relevant new card at some point in the article. As this set has far too many of them to fit into 10 categories, I will first briefly go over all the ones that didn’t make the list.
The set includes a lot of interesting tech Pokemon that will find their place in the right decks.
- Mew is one of the most important ones and brings Bench Barrier back into the format, which most notably stops Pikachu & Zekrom’s Tag Bolt snipe.
- Marshadow is another important addition. It’s a searchable Stadium removal that can even get rid of Prism Stars, while also being a formidable attacker against opposing Buzzwoles.
- Kartana is a new Ultra Beast to be played alongside Buzzwole and Nihilego, with an attack that’s reminiscent of Sledgehammer, and free retreat on top of it.
- Persian-GX is an interesting card that will probably end up being played in some Zoroark lists, but could also have potential to be the center of its own toolbox-style deck.
- Spiritomb is a cool option for decks with Darkness Energy. Given a few turns on the bench, it can reach up to 160 base damage for just a single attachment. With cards like Hustle Belt, and support from Stunfisk, one could even build a deck around it.
- Mewtwo is another potential tech that can serve as a searchable mini Pal Pad for decks that need better access to their Supporters.
- Hitmontop completes the current Hitmon-trio, and brings a powerful spread attack. Together with Martial Arts Dojo, it could bring back some kind of Fighting Toolbox deck.
- Marshadow & Machamp-GX is a new option for decks with Fighting Energy. For 2 energy, one of which could be a Counter Gain, it revenge knocks out Pikachu & Zekrom-GX and other Fighting weak Pokemon.
Aside from the tech Pokemon, there’s also a few new centerpiece Pokemon that didn’t quite make the top 10 list, but are very worth mentioning anyway.
- Porygon-Z has a really good energy accelerating ability. With a lot of great Special Energy in the format, and yet another one being released in this set, I wouldn’t be surprised to see decks built around this card show up.
- Weezing is a powerful Spread partner for Tapu Koko, and can use Spell Tag for additional damage.
- Whimsicott-GX has potential to be a very annoying deck to deal with. Its ability is incredibly good, but also luck-based, so players may be hesitant to bring it to the big tournaments.
- Blastoise-GX has synergy with the previously released Blastoise from Team Up, and Water typing is very useful for the upcoming Meta, but having to set up multiple Stage 2s will be an issue.
- Greninja & Zoroark-GX brings Dark Pulse back into the format, and better than ever. It remains to be seen whether the attack can still hold up without cards like Dark Patch and Max Elixir, but it still has a lot of potential partners, like Darkrai Prism Star, Darkrai-GX or Incineroar-GX, who can even be set-up with Zoroninja’s GX attack. As a big fan of Darkrai decks in the past, I’ll definitely make sure to give this card a try.
Lastly, I would like to mention some of the Trainer and Energy cards that didn’t fit into anywhere on the following ranking.
- Energy Spinner finally made it to the West, and is actually a much appreciated option for some decks. Zapdos decks that play a Volkner engine can now use that to search out their tech Basic Energy and better incorporate cards like Buzzwole (although the dedicated Beast variant with Rainbow Energies is probably still superior).
- Red’s Challenge is not an overly impressive Supporter, but could shine in Granbull decks.
- Chip-Chip Ice Axe is a Item version of Hiker that will probably find its way into various Control decks.
- Power Plant is a very strong and disruptive Stadium, and an option for many decks to combat the Zoroark matchups. While Trade is its main target for now, there are a lot of decks that will be annoyed by a Power Plant, so keep this card in mind while deckbuilding.
- Triple Acceleration Energy, one of the more interesting Special Energy cards in a while, is a boost for Evolution decks. Zoroark can use it to include tech Pokemon like Dewgong, or simply as sort of additional DCE copies.
With all those out of the way, let’s now get into the 10 cards or combinations that I would like to take a more detailed look at!
10 Vikavolt & Charjabug
I’m a bit surprised by the complete lack of results those two seem to have in Japan. Charjabug is simply amazing, and Vikavolt looks good enough to make it worth, so I think there’s a lot of potential here.
The main challenge will be to make this deck work consistently. If it ran well, it’d have answers to about everything. With support from Electropower, Vikavolt can take down even the biggest Tag Teams and completely outclass them in the prize trade. Against non-GX like Zapdos, 150 HP is a lot, so it should be able to trade 2-for-1 there as well.
I’m pretty excited to try out some versions of this deck! Maybe it just need too much, maybe the cards to break it aren’t released yet, but it certainly could be something.
(Note: Charjabug’s Ability doesn’t count as the energy attachment for turn in Japan, and while there’s no official english ruling yet, we assume it will be handled the same over here.)
9 Honchkrow-GX, Mismagius & Dusk Stone
Those two Pokemon won’t necessarily be played together at all times, but I’ve grouped them together anyway as both make use of Dusk Stone, and there will probably be a decent amount of decks combining the two.
Honchkrow is all-around interesting card. The ability resembles Giratina-EX’s Chaos Wheel, an attack that had a big impact on the game for a long time. However, with Double Colorless Energy slowly losing relevance, it may not be as great as it used to be. The meta is shifting more and more towards Tag Teams with high Basic Energy counts, and with the upcoming rotation, we’ll probably lose DCE altogether.
The main way for Honchkrow decks to win games may be its GX attack. Thanks to Dusk Stone, you can use it as early as the first turn, and combined with a Marshadow Let Loose, will most likely leave the opponent’s hand completely ruined.
Mismagius is a Dusk Stone-user that can fit into any deck, and I won’t be surprised if ends up being a successful card. Giving up a prize card for its effect may seem like a big downside, but in some decks it won’t even matter. When focusing on only GX, or even Tag Teams, a single prize is not relevant. For example, in a deck playing only Tag Teams and a Mismagius line, you could sacrifice two of them, and the opponent would still have to knock out two of the big guys.
I think Mismagius will become more relevant when Reset Stamp gets released in the next set. Not only does having one on the bench protect you from an opposing Stamp, it can also make your own Stamps more effective.
8 Blacephalon & Fire Crystal
These two cards are made for each other and make Blacephalon the likely best non-GX attacker in Unbroken Bonds.
Flame Ball Circus is a great attack without real damage cap, and there’s a lot of support that makes it very possible to build a deck around it. Aside from the obvious Fire Crystal, Welder is another incredible addition to every Fire deck.
A regular Basic Pokemon that can OHKO everything in the game must of course also have weaknesses. I think one big problem will be the deck’s reliance on Wishful Baton, and the resulting weakness to Field Blower and Lysandre Labs. At 120 HP, it won’t be rare having to replace Blacephalon with a new one every turn, while also having to amass enough energy in hand, so the draw power provided by Welder might not be enough.
A lot of initial lists are relying on mostly Green’s and Welder as their supporters of choice, which makes me worried about their chances against Let Loose or other hand disruption. Being put to 4, while playing a fragile Pokemon that relies on a big hand, without having many outs that actually refresh the hand, is scary.
7 Buzzwole & Pheromosa-GX
As seen by its victory at the CL Chiba, this card has all it needs to take down even the biggest of tournaments. With 260 HP and an 1 energy attack, the strategy was to tank and heal while spreading around damage, until giving up the first Tag Team, and then taking advantage of Lt. Surge, Beast Ring and Lusamine Prism. With Surge into Green for a bunch of Beast Rings, you can even get enough energy into play to finish the game with the extra effect of its GX attack! The deck just seems to combine a bunch of really strong cards in a very effective way.
However, there’s one very big problem for it, which is the insane amount of Fire Support in Unbroken Bonds. When Buzzmosa is going down in one hit, which will be the case against a lot of the other attackers in this set, the whole strategy doesn’t work.
For now, this card may take more of a supporting role as a tech in decks that can take advantage of Beast Game GX. Something like Zapdos Beasts comes to mind, as it’s a deck that often relies on taking KOs in multiple hits and already has the energies to support this tech.
When the Fire decks take a step back in the meta, possibly caused by the release of cards like Keldeo-GX, or by them simply not living up to the expectations, playing a dedicated Buzzmosa deck might become a good choice again, so don’t write it off yet.
6 Lucario & Melmetal-GX
The main reason this card is good is its GX attack. For a single DCE, it not only discards all energy from the defending Pokemon (like Articuno-GX, a card that has already seen play), but also significantly reduces any damage that it and other Metal Pokemon will take for the rest of the game. This makes the card a perfect fit for the already successful stall archetype.
Coupled with a Metal Frying Pan and a bunch of healing, not many decks will be able to get through the defense this Tag Team can put up.
The other parts of the card aren’t particularly impressive, especially in a format that’s going to be flooded with Fire type support, so Stall decks should the card’s only use for now – still a really good one though!
5 Lt. Surge’s Strategy
After N’s rotation, many players wished for new comeback options, and this card is certainly a strong one. Playing two supporters is huge, but unlike N, Surge won’t just fit into any deck. The ones playing it will be decks that plan to always fall behind and set-up powerful combos with it, like the aforementioned Buzzwole & Pheromosa Tag Team.
Other decks that will like having access to this card are of course the dreaded Stall decks around Regigigas, Hoopa and friends. However, I don’t think it actually provides a big amount of value for them. The one-time double Supporter is comparable to them using a Max Potion or Hammer alongside the regular Supporter, something players already have to deal with. It even makes them use an extra card for it. Sure, they can Lusamine it back, but that means not getting a different supporter, so there won’t be any infinite double supporter spam.
Decks that are most likely to break this card are in my opinion Oranguru based Control variants, like some Zoroark Control lists of the past, or even the newly found Shedinja Zebstrika deck. In those decks, it will be possible to create infinite double Supporter loops, which is a bit scary.
4 Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX
This Tag Team’s strategy is similar to Buzzmosa’s – tank hits and heal. Attacking with Kaleidostorm is strong enough to KO most single prizers, while dealing 2HKOs against anything bigger than that. After attacking, it allows to rearrange energies, so you can simply move them all to the bench, and then use either Acerola or Max Potion to heal the active one next turn.
A card that wonderfully supports this strategy is Ribombee from Lost Thunder. It prevents the opponent from touching your bench with Guzma, so their only option become to hit into the active Tag Team. Against decks that can’t OHKO it, which at 260 HP is a tough task, this is surely a winning strategy.
Other important cards for this defensive strategy are Fairy Charms, of which there are two new and highly impactful ones in the set. However, they still don’t cover all of the possible threats, so Choice Helmet will also show up in many lists. If you want to have a chance of beating this deck, make sure to pack some Field Blowers! Which is the main problem Gardevoir & Sylveon will have to face, if the tanking strategy fails, and the Tag Team goes down, there’s not much of a back-up plan.
Keep in mind this card’s GX attack though, after a few turns of gathering energy in play, it can just shuffle away your hand! This is a really good GX attack.
3. Pokegear & Green’s Exploration
I’ve grouped these two cards together because even though they won’t always be played together, they are very similar in what they do for the format and are good for many of the same reasons. Both of these Trainer cards will be consistency staples and automatic 4-ofs in many decks to come. Some decks will use the combination of these two as their main engine of card access.
Pokegear improves the odds of finding Supporters, while Green is an incredible option in any deck that is able to use it. In most recent formats players had to rely on draw supporters like Cynthia or Lillie, but finding the exact cards that are needed is usually a stronger effect. Skyla used to be a popular card, and Green is basically two Skyla in one!
With Green in format, If an archetype has the option of going completely Ability-less, it probably will, just so it can include this card.
As the decline in Tapu Lele usage will only continue due to this, Pokegear becomes even more important as an alternative for finding Supporters. Especially decks around Tag Teams, or other decks with simple Pokemon lineups, will probably have both the deck space and need for Pokegear and include a full playset.
Card draw in Pokemon form in usually strong, and Dedenne will not be an exception to this. Its Dedechange Ability is very reminiscent of Shaymin-EX’ Set Up, one of the most influential Abilities in any format where it is or was legal.
The decks that benefit the most from Dedenne are probably ones centered around Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. One reason for that is another new card, Electromagnetic Radar. This item can search out any combination of Dedenne, Pikarom or Zeraora, while also being another out for getting Lightning Energy into the discard pile. Together, they make an early Full Blitz much easier than before, to the point where a Pikarom attacking on the first turn will not be a rarity anymore.
Lightning decks aren’t the only ones that will be happy to have a Ability based hand refresh though. Just like Shaymin, Dedenne will be seen in many different kinds of decks and change the way the game is played.
One interesting thing to note, in a deck around Tag Teams, the benched Dedenne isn’t even a liability, as like I mentioned in the Mismagius part, giving up just two prizes doesn’t matter for them.
1. Reshiram & Charizard-GX
If you looked at the results of the recent CL Kyoto, this pick will probably not surprise you. This card has been dominating Japan ever since its release. The high HP make it very hard to knock out, while its damage output is high enough to score OHKOs on almost every Pokemon in the game.
The more I think about the card, the more impressed I am by it. I believe one of the most important cards for making Reshizard work is going to be Kiawe. With cards like Dedenne-GX, Tapu Lele-GX, and possibly Pokegear, it should be incredibly easy to use it on the first turn and start attacking by turn 2. Powering a second attacker won’t be a problem either, thanks to Welder.
There’s a lot of different ways the deck could be built, as seen by various japanese lists. The core of the deck leaves tons of space for different engines and techs, which is one of the reasons I like it so much.
Overall, I think Unbroken Bonds is a strong follow-up to both Lost Thunder and Team Up. The set introduces new top tier archetypes, many additions to existing decks, and tons of interesting techs and trainers!
I’m excited to be jumping into the new format soon. Hope you guys liked this review, if you got any questions or other remarks, don’t hesitate to leave a comment!