Hey Trainers! Professor Bamboo here. Man… what a crazy past few months this has been. After months in self-isolation, the cancellation of the 2020 Championship series, Rebel clash prerelease at-home and being on the tail end of the current meta, I’m sure I’m not the only one itching for some new cards! Thankfully, Pokémon isn’t holding back and we’re about to dive into their latest set – Rebel Clash.
Rebel Clash is the second installment in the Sword and Shield block and it’s packed with exciting new Pokémon and trainers. One of the joys of reading through a new set is the opportunity to craft new deck ideas and improve older ones. While some ideas are better than others, the sheer depth of possibility is what I think makes Pokémon so fun. Of course, with this much new content, the task of reading every card can be daunting. For those of you out there that are just tuning in to Rebel Clash, I’ve gone ahead and done the research for you (That’s what a Professor does right?).
Rebel Clash First Impressions
There are a lot of cards being hyped out of Rebel Clash and for many it’s well deserved. One of the biggest changes Rebel Clash brings to the standard metagame is the return of reliable gust effects. Gusting is arguably the most powerful mechanic in the game. The ability to bring up an opponent’s benched Pokémon into the Active Spot adds another dimension of gameplay that demands that players pay extra attention to how they manage their bench. Back in the Sun and Moon era, Guzma absolutely defined the standard metagame. In fact, the best decks in each format were often the ones that could abuse Guzma or other gust effects the most (Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX, Golisopod-GX variants, Zapdos/Jirachi… Ahh, the memories).
Fast forward to 2020, we just saw Zach Lesage’s Fire Box deck do well at OCIC and lo and behold – it runs an amazing gust engine: Ninetales. It might not be so surprising then that a deck like Fire Box managed to make it all the way to the finals of OCIC.
Excitingly, Rebel Clash introduces reliable gusting effects that all types can now abuse. With that in mind, here are some cards that I think will make the biggest splash and a few that are – well – just plain fun.
V and VMAX in Pokémon Rebel Clash
The power creep in Pokémon these past few years has been anything but subtle. At the start of the Sun and Moon block, we were blown away by how Stage 2 Pokémon could have 230-250 HP and, for a while, these had to be two-shotted. By the end of Sun and Moon, we were slugging it out with Tag Team-GX Pokémon that not only rocked 250-300 HP, but were all basic. Just when we were getting comfortable with massively tanky basic Pokémon, the GX era concluded and a new wave of ginormous (literally) Pokémon was ushered in. With HP exceeding 300, Pokémon VMAX are the new kings in town and this time around (let’s be real, the VMAX from base set kinda sucked) are poised to re-mold the standard metagame.
In my opinion, this is one of the best VMAX Pokémon out of Rebel Clash set. Electropower does not seem like a powerful card but it has a lot going for it in terms of support and I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes a serious Tier 1 contender. Max Phantom has a very manageable energy cost and, if used repeatedly, can set up double Pokémon knockouts. Dealing 130 damage to the active Pokémon and then spreading 5 damage counters across your opponent’s bench can devastate boards. Especially if you pair this with Boss’s Orders, Team Yell Grunt, and Giant Bomb. This combo is great for many reasons. Dealing successive 130’s and spreading damage counters will make your opponent desperate to return a knockout but with Giant Bomb attached they’ll have to think twice. If they ever do manage to set up or get close to that, you can disrupt them by gusting in a Pokémon with no energies using Boss’s Orders or slow them down with Team Yell Grunt and spam them again with Max Phantom. Having 320 HP also makes Dragapult VMAX an extremely annoying Pokémon to take down, especially if your opponent is playing Mallow & Lana.
Note: Horror P Energy buffs this strategy greatly and will be discussed later.
Toxtricity VMAX is another beast of a Pokémon that has the potential to extend Lightning’s presence in the standard metagame. G-Max Riot is a powerful attack that can potentially end games quickly. 160 base damage is nothing to write home about but if your opponent’s Pokémon is poisoned, it’ll deal another 80 damage. Poison itself will deal 10 damage when you pass the turn. Already, you’re looking at 250 damage. Most lightning decks play Thunder Mountain and four copies of Electropower extending the damage ceiling to 370 – enough to knockout any Pokémon in the game for just 2 energies. If you’re looking to knockout an opposing Dragapult VMAX , inflicting poison with Koga’s Trap and two Electropower will deliver an OHKO once the turn passes back to you if they don’t recover from poison. If Giant Bomb is annoying you, luckily you have a base damage of 160 so you could adopt a two-shot strategy without heavy repercussions.
For many players, a common frustration is not having the best Pokémon attackers. These are often very expensive and hard to find. It doesn’t get worse than playing a mediocre deck into an opponent that clearly spent last month’s rent on their deck. Ninetales V is a clear and cheap solution where you can take advantage of your opponent and copy their Pokémon’s attacks. Simply attach fire energy and activate Welder to load up Nine-Tailed Shapeshifter and watch your opponent experience their own attacks. Oh, how the tables turn with Rebel Clash …
If you played during the XY era or have recently taken a dive into the Expanded format you should be familiar with VS Seeker. This card allowed you to get any supporter from the discard and place it back into your hand. This meant many things for players beyond just reusing supporters. In many ways, it gave a sense of security where you could reliably use a supporter at any time so long as you had one ready in the discard. This reliance on keeping supporters in the discard also made them the preferred targets for discarding cards with Ultra Ball or Mysterious Treasure, allowing you to conserve the rest of your hand. Eldegoss V is a carbon copy in this way and being a Pokémon, it can be searched using cards like Quick Ball, Net Ball, and Pokémon Communication. I can easily see this card being used to get that game-winning Boss’s Orders – 154/192 – Holo Rare – Reverse Holo or Welder or, if you’re in a pinch, give you a route to a draw supporter in a similar way to when Tapu Lele-GX was in the format.
Non-V Pokémon from Rebel Clash
Often, single prize Pokémon take a back seat in terms of the metagame. They usually either support higher tier Pokémon, serve niche uses, or, for the most part, are just plain awful (e.g. Unfezant). However, sometimes these little guys shine just as bright as their GX and VMAX counterparts.
Garbodor is an interesting (a bit underwhelming, in my opinion, but worth mentioning) print this time around. The name Garbodor used to strike fear into many hearts as it was notoriously known to either refer to the Garbotoxin print that completely locked abilities or the Trashalanche print that punished item-heavy decks. Garbodor makes a reappearance this set as a Dark-type Pokémon with a focus on poison. Poison itself has not been a very game-influencing status condition in the metagame leading up to Rebel Clash. Especially considering that the HP ceiling has crossed 300 and poison still does the same annoying little 10 damage in between turns, its effectiveness remains questionable. Rather than driving a poison focused win-con, this is likely going to be paired with Horror P Energy to reliably inflict poison for turns or builds where Koga’s Trap is not preferred.
Coalossal reminds me a lot of Vikavolt from Sun and Moon. The effect of loading 2 different basic energies onto a single Pokémon is not new but Coalossal maintains the whole mining theme in Galar by specifying the discard as the energy source. In my opinion, this has a few drawbacks – mainly the requirement for energies to be in the discard. Pitching energies off of Viridian Forest or Quick Ball is what comes to mind. You could also clear many from your hand using Professor’s Research or Dedenne-GX. I would be interested to see how many energies you can reliably bin to fully take advantage of Coalossal. There also is the question of who do you even load? And, even more interesting, is there a decent Pokémon that benefits from both Fighting and Fire energies? To add more salt to the wound, Coalossal is a Stage 2 Pokémon so part of your deck will have to include Rare Candy and enough trainers to search out the appropriate pieces. Despite all this, energy acceleration is never bad. As we saw with the old Tapu Bulu-GX deck – hate on stage 2 turbo decks all you want, it’s funny until you realize you’re being overwhelmed by their engine and attackers.
It’s not always that the basic Pokémon in an evolution line gets the spotlight over its evolved form, but Galarian Meowth is a neat little buff for metal type decks. Previously Zacian V dominated the metagame as it was able to comfortably OHKO many Tag Team-GX Pokémon with its 230 damage attack. With VMAX Pokémon becoming competitively relevant, Metal fans may appreciate a more reliable way of scaling their damage. Galarian Meowth has a built-in ability that will help it search out the Galarian Perrserker so you don’t have to run extra search cards – saving precious deck space.
Rebel Clash Trainers and Energies
The trainers in a set are often skimmed over by collectors are mostly paid attention to by people that play the game. Nonetheless, there are some amazing trainers and energies in this set and I think many of them will redefine how players build their decks in standard. Here are some of my favorites:
I’ve talked about this card a lot already so I’ll keep it short. I see a Pokémon I don’t like on opponent’s bench –> Boss’s Orders –> Bye-Bye.
When I first saw this card I didn’t immediately realize why it was good. I thought to myself, what’s the point of picking up a non-V, non-GX Pokémon? Later I realized this card creates some crazy combos that can actually alter the course of the game. I’ll highlight two examples.
Firstly, in Dragapult VMAX decks (or any deck really), you can extend the amount of damage counters you place by playing Galarian Zigzagoon. After using its effect, simply play Scoop Up Net and play it down again to ping another 10 damage to a Pokémon. Truly a fantastic way to secure or setup multiple knockouts.
Secondly, consider pairing this card with Oranguru and Mewtwo to establish a supporter recycle system. After using a supporter, use Mind Report to place it on top of your deck again and then follow that up with Primate Wisdom to bring it into your hand. Then use Scoop Up Net to recover your Mewtwo and repeat the process until you run out of Scoop Up Nets. Essentially, this achieves the same effect as running 4 VS Seeker.
Field Blower has been revived in a diet form. Tool Scrapper fulfills largely the same role as Field Blower. Tool attachments become less guaranteed and players may decide to opt-out of using them now that tool removal is back. Nonetheless, I would play at least 1 copy in most decks just in case.
I’m particularly fond of this stadium because it can truly lock Pokémon in the Active Spot. A well-timed Galar Mine can completely trap a Jirachi even if they have Escape Board attached. This card could pressure your opponent to use Switch and drain them of their copies towards the late game.
This card is basically a Nest Ball built into single colorless energy. Attaching energy and getting a Pokémon onto your bench – what’s not to like? This energy may be particularly useful to players that focus on evolution decks that need to setup up for a few turns. Capture Energy relieves the dependency of some decks on Quick Ball, perhaps saving it for a juicier target. This card has one caveat though: not many Pokémon benefit from a colorless attachment and, while getting the basic Pokémon onto your bench could be useful, it may come at the cost of a useless energy attachment.
It’s been a long time since colored special energy was printed. Horror P Energy likely marks the beginning of a new generation of these. In contrast to Mystery Energy which gave Psychic Pokémon two retreat cost-less, Horror P Energy focuses on placing damage counters on your opponent’s Pokémon every time you take damage. Considering that cards like Dragapult VMAX are already donning Giant Bombs, recycling Galarian Zigzagoons, and spreading 5 damage counters from their attacks, Horror P Energy serves as an additional deterrent to a retaliating attack.
The lightning special energy offers some insane acceleration to an already fast archetype. Attaching and drawing 2 could let decks like Pikachu & Zekrom-GX dig a little further to guarantee that turn 1 Full Blitz attack. Toxtricity VMAX builds may use Speed L Energy to dig for combo pieces to secure a full knockout. Simple and effective, this card is definitely something to get your hands on.
Another diet card, this time of Double Colorless Energy. There’s a restriction that makes Twin Energy somewhat useless for GX and V Pokémon but for single-prize Pokémon, this could be a much-needed buff. I’m somewhat hesitant in saying this is an amazing card despite providing up to 2 energies because there aren’t that many single-prize attackers that can really take advantage of this. Gallade might be the best option since it could deal super effective damage. But with the new weakness adjustments, Psychic and Fighting weaknesses aren’t very relevant anymore.
Meta Changes from Rebel Clash
The standard metagame is a bit controversial in terms of what that actually means. With the 2020 Championship Series canceled, there technically isn’t a sanctioned meta. Of course, local tournaments will eventually resume again and players may want to remain competitive. I’m no pro, so my talking points will be a bit broader. The introduction of actually competitive Pokémon VMAX furthers the transition from GX Pokémon. With that being said, the new HP ceiling is something to pay close attention to. 120 damage attacks may not be enough to survive in this new environment. 160-170 seems like a sweet spot for many since it can 2 shot most VMAX while simultaneously being under the threshold to trigger a Giant Bomb. Gust effects will also likely be present in virtually all decklists so players should be careful and mindful of this both when they play and build decks.
Wacky Rebel Clash picks for the casual player
My last piece before I end this article is to introduce a wacky deck idea for those budget lovers and players that are looking to have a bit of fun. I’m really interested in the Butterfree evolution line from Rebel Clash as it reminds me a lot of Forest of Giant Plants. Both the Caterpie and Metapod can evolve as soon as you play them and the new Turffield Stadium can easily allow you to setup multiple evolution lines. The deck also benefits from Net Ball. This makes for a pretty easy-to-play Stage 2 deck that can apply 3 status conditions for a single energy. Not the most competitive idea, but it sure seems like a lot of fun.
That’s all for now, folks, thanks for reading, stay safe and train on!