Ice and Lightning — Breaking Down Alolan Ninetales-GX / Tapu Koko

Hey PokeBeach, I’ve been doing a lot lately with this new set and have had some renewed interest among some old playtesting partners that have come back into the game. There’s a lot of exciting things in this new set, and I cannot wait to explore it with you all. A lot of our writers have chosen their own exciting topics to write about in the coming weeks. Believe me, I may be one of the first to write about this set, but there will be much more to follow.

This set breaks apart our format better than any other I’ve seen in a while. There is so many great cards in this set, that it almost re-establishes and changes the metagame completely. What I mean by that, is that so many groundbreaking things came out of this set, that the metagame is going to be completely different. Different facets of the game not existing (more on this later) in the past have allowed some decks to be incredibly strong, but now their power will be incredibly diminished. Different cards are so powerful in this set that entire decks can be made around them.

I think that every player should take a good hard look at the decks in the past format, and see how they stack up now with the new set out. Certain decks are going to be still played, however, can they beat these new decks and cards? I’m going to go into detail on five decks that I think will be real winners with the next set out. Of course, we can add Tapu Lele-GX and Field Blower to our old decks and they will just be better but that doesn’t mean they will beat these new decks. As the title may also suggest, I will go into detail with one of the more prominent cards of the set.

The New Standard

I’m not going to beat around the bush. There is a clear best deck to arrive from this current format. My good friend Jordan Nelle gave me a lot of information on what has been doing well in Japan. Japan has a different format than us, with them playing XY-on. However, for once, their decks at the moment aren’t really playing old cards. This next set is so good that their decks are essentially the same as our format. However, their Oricorio inclusion is an obvious way to beat Night March, which still has a pull on their metagame. We won’t have to include this particular card in our decks, unless Vespiquen is still seen as a huge problem.

Having said that, I believe that the majority of the lists that they play can translate well here. There have been multiple adaptations of the Garbodor deck I will write about soon, but the most popular way to run it in Japan will actually play well here.

I’m not going to go into detail on why Tapu Lele-GX is a good card. It’s incredibly obvious why a Mewtwo-EX with Jirachi-EX‘s Ability that doesn’t have a Weakness is good. Shaymin-EX is already starting to go down to a one-of or two-of in my current decks in favor of more Tapu Lele because it’s just such a good attacker as well.

I have a few decks that I want to discuss that become powerful with the arrival of Guardians Rising. Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first.

Garbodor / Tapu Lele-GX / Tauros-GX

There’s so much hype out there for this deck, and for good reason. Garbodor sits at 120 HP and is an amazing late game attacker because it exploits one of the biggest ways to make decks consistent. Take a step back and take a good look at just how many Items are played in decks right now. Add that in with one of the best attackers in the game right now in Tapu Lele-GX. Tapu Lele-GX does so well as an early attacker since there’s a lot out there that cannot hit 170 HP early without the help of Weakness. Choice Band helps Tapu Lele hit hard early as well.

The older Garbodor can also make an appearance in here, however Field Blower greatly diminishes that card’s overall use. Ideally this deck will attack with Tapu Lele-GX early and maybe use Tauros-GX to attack as well. By the time the late game comes in, your opponent will likely have used so many Items that OHKOs will come easily. It only takes nine Items in the discard pile to OHKO a 180 HP Pokemon. With Choice Band, you can hit 210. I normally don’t like to play cards that have dependent damage based on what your opponent plays and uses, but like Zoroark from BREAKthrough, its damage is just too good, even when there’s just a few Items in the discard pile or in Zoroark‘s case, they have few Pokemon on the Bench.

Be on the lookout for articles from our other writers about this deck. To me, this deck will shape and define our format and how we build decks. In my opinion, it is the next best deck and new deck to try and beat. There’s just so many different ways to build the deck and so many backup attackers that can go with it. A whole article can be devoted to this deck and the ways it can fit into other decks.


Remember that great article our own Eric Gansman wrote about Lapras-GX? Sylveon-GX is just been a better Lapras-GX. Sure, it doesn’t have the healing that Lapras-GX had, but Fairy Drop and Max Potion are still good cards. Eric is writing an article on Sylveon-GX as well, and I can’t think of a better player to write on that topic since he’s had success with Lapras-GX.

Sylveon-GX will play almost exactly the same as Lapras-GX does. Heavy disruption with an attack here and there to win the game. This deck is a lock and control deck unlike Vileplume decks in many regards. With this deck, you get a free three card search every turn with a 200 HP hitter. This deck was really overwhelming for me to play, since I felt like I was misplaying with every search. This deck should be able to disrupt more than Lapras-GX ever did. Where Lapras-GX was already formidable, Sylveon-GX will seem borderline overpowered, being able to easily defeat decks that have to attach more than one Energy to an attacker.

Another reason to start playing Sylveon-GX over Lapras-GX now is the GX attack. A common strategy against Lapras-GX is to power up a Benched Pokemon with a lot of Energy, since Team Flare Grunt cannot target the Bench and Crushing Hammer is unreliable. However, Plea-GX will allow Sylveon-GX decks to get an extra turn or two to hit their Hammers or take Prizes. Be expecting this deck to show up in force as players practice and get the hang of a deck that lets you play three Computer Search for an attack.


That’s weird, I’m writing about this old deck that has been beaten into the dirt with the amount of coverage on it. Hear me out, this deck gets a lot better with this new set. Where Garbodor beat or annoyed this deck in the past, depending on who you talked to, Field Blower gets rid of two problems Volcanion-EX struggled with: Parallel City and Garbodor. Ability-lock will not be a sure thing anymore. There’s no need to OHKO the Garbodor to get your Abilities back now. I can see two copies of Field Blower making it into this deck easily.

Turtonator-GX is another almost auto include in this deck. However, the first attack seems like it wants to be your early game attacker, but Volcanion-EX needs the help from baby Volcanion to help it power up. Volcanion-EX also doesn’t have to play too many Items to execute its strategy, giving it some resistance against Garbodor. That Weakness still sucks though, with Aqua Patch‘s printing, we will see many more Water decks spring up. Regardless, I do feel Volcanion-EX is an incredibly powerful deck in the right meta. The only other bad thing I see with this deck, is that Hex Maniac is so much easier for players to get their hands on now with Tapu Lele-GX.

Greninja BREAK

Okay, here’s another old one. A lot of players are sleeping on this deck, and I think that Greninja BREAK‘s strengths haven’t changed in this new set. In fact, Field Blower fixes the Garbodor problem easily. One Field Blower and a pair of Giant Water Shuriken and Garbodor is toast. Tapu Lele-GX giving easily accessible Hex Maniac is the only argument I can see as to how anything makes this deck worse in the coming set.

That alone may be a reason not to play this, but hear me out, don’t sleep on Greninja. The deck is still incredibly solid. Brooklet Hill helps you not rely on Items so much against that other Garbodor deck I mentioned earlier.

Ninetales-GX / Tapu Koko

The gist of my article is on this deck. I’ve been testing this a ton. Unfortunately, Tapu Koko is not going to be out in time for Seattle’s Regional Championships, but it will be out in time for Madison. I’ll be going into detail soon of why these two cards are just incredible on their own. Aqua Patch makes an appearance in this deck too, same with Rough Seas. With the deck playing Double Colorless Energy, you can play a multitude of backup attackers. Tapu Lele-GX is the obvious one, but there’s a few others that we can include. I’ll be showing off my personal deck list for this deck and explain the choices of the cards. I will also go over this deck’s matchups against new and old decks.

Let’s go over the cards first.

Key Cards

Alolan Ninetales-GX

What a card! Solid first attack, solid second attack, amazing GX attack and good health and typing. This isn’t Yveltal-EX levels of a great, but it’s close. Its only real downside to me is the fact that it needs to evolve.

Ice Blade is Alolan Ninetales-GX‘s first attack. A straight 50 damage anywhere you want for a Double Colorless Energy. This is perfect for sniping off small Pokemon such as Trubbish when paired with Tapu Koko. It’s also a good attack to combine with a Choice Band for 80 damage to the Active. Snipe damage has been less and less useful since the original Pokémon Catcher was printed. With Lysandre now, no Bench is safe. But before these cards were printed, Garchomp C LV.X was so good because it did 80 damage to any Pokemon of your choosing. The power level is much higher now, but Alolan Ninetales-GX can very easily soften Pokemon up before using Blizzard Edge.

Now let’s discuss that second attack. A flat 160 for three Energy, but discard two Energy to use the attack. Not Energy cards. Energy. This means that you can just discard that Double Colorless you used for that first attack. The second attack takes some time to get to, however, with Aqua Patch, it’s not out of reach. With Choice Band, this attack OHKOs all Basic Pokemon-GX and Pokemon-EX. Tapu Koko alleviates the need to have a Choice Band, and it also allows you to hit other evolved Pokemon-GX for Knock Outs with some softening damage down.

The GX attack is probably the most powerful one yet printed. It’s like Damage Swap from Mewtwo-EX, but it only costs one Energy and it completely heals your Ninetales while dealing damage to the opposing Pokemon. With this attack, your opponent has to play very carefully to not set themselves up to getting Knocked Out back with the damage from their last attack erased.

Oh and having a gorgeous full art version of the card is nice too.

Tapu Koko

This comes as a Promo as part of a collection deal, so it comes out a little after Guardians Rising. Let’s start at the top. Lightning typing means this card uses Rough Seas.

110 HP means this thing can tank a hit. It has the advantage that Volcanion has in that it is hard to Knock Out in one hit early. This is also your early game attacker. The first attack is what we want in this card. 20 spread to everything for a single Double Colorless Energy sets up Alolan Ninetales-GX super well. That means that Ninetales will hit 180 with one attack from Tapu Koko. But the advantage here, is that Tapu Koko has the HP and healing so that he can attack multiple times. This means that he might get two or three attacks off before you get fully set up. Ninetales’ Ice Blade attack looks really good once Pokemon has 60 damage on them. His second attack is unremarkable.

Did you guys notice this Pokemon has free Retreat? This attacker can cycle between other ones to keep attacking until you can hit 110. Then an Alolan Ninetales-GX can get involved to finish what Tapu Koko started.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

If you'd like to continue reading, consider purchasing a PokeBeach premium membership! If you're not completely satisfied with your membership, you can request a full refund within 30 days.

Each week we post high-quality content from some of the game's top players. Our article program isn't a corporate operation, advertising front, or for-profit business. We set our prices so that we can pay the game's top players to write the best content for our subscribers. Each article topic is carefully selected, goes through multiple drafts, and is touched up by our editors. We take great pride in our program!