Team Up! Standard Format Set Review

Hey everyone, Rukan here with my first set review on PokeBeach. Our next Standard event includes the Team Up set, as well as the Jolteon-GX, Flareon-GX, Vaporeon-GX, and Eevee-GX promos, and I want to get a jump start on that format. As I discuss my card reviews, I intend to discuss two aspects of deck building I think tend to get overlooked: a card’s searchability and its deck space efficiency, or Search and Value for short.

As an example for search: I saw players including Choice Band or Field Blower in Psychic Malamar lists immediately after Philadelphia Regionals this year. I would say those cards possess poor search because no other card in Malamar decks can grab them for you.

As an example of value: Poet Larsen and his teammates removed Garbotoxin Garbodor from their Zoroark-GX / Garbodor list at Worlds 2018. Garbotoxin provides a powerful effect, but it eats through a significant number of deck slots. Decks typically commit at least one slot to Garbotoxin itself, some more for Tools, and sometimes an extra copy of Rescue Stretcher and Field Blowers as well. So when Poet Larsen built his Zoroark-GX / Garbodor list for Worlds 2018, he cut Garbotoxin Garbodor completely, finding better uses for those deck slots. The majority of the players piloting Poet’s variant of Zoroark-GX / Garbodor would end up making it past Day 1 of Worlds, and Jimmy Taylor would ultimately win the Nashville Open with the list. That kind of spectacular performance highlights the benefits of accurately evaluating a card’s deck space efficiency, even if it means second guessing some of the most powerful cards in the format.

I want to use this set review as an opportunity to hammer in the concepts of Search and Value. It doesn’t take much effort to think about when you glance at a card, and appreciating them can dramatically improve your deck building.

Lightning Pokemon

Ever since rotation, each new set would bring a new, powerful, and aggressive archetype to forefront of our Standard format. Celestial Storm brought us Vikavolt / Rayquaza-GX. Lost Thunder brought us Blacephalon-GX. And now, Team Up brings us Lightning Box. Lightning gains several powerful new tools and we already saw Zapdos dominate the Niigata Champions League in Japan, taking a third of the Top 32 placements.


Zapdos – Lightning – HP110
Basic Pokemon

[L] Assault Thunder: 10+ damage. If this Pokemon became your Active Pokemon this turn, this attack does 70 more damage. This attack’s damage isn’t affected by Weakness.

Weakness: Lightning (x2)
Resistance: Fighting (-20)
Retreat: 2

  • Overall: 5|5 – Format defining
  • Search: 4|5 – Ultra Ball and Nest Ball
  • Value: 5|5 – 80 damage for ~2-3 cards on turn one is unprecedented.

I think of Assault Thunder as a better Jet Punch from Buzzwole-GX, as a 30-30 damage spread decks requires damage modifiers to Knock Out evolving Basic Pokemon. It sets up 2HKOs on two-Prize Pokemon-GX better than Jet Punch. And similar to Burst-GX on Blacephalon-GX, Zapdos helps ensure the Lightning archetype starts the game off with an oppressive tempo lead. Compared to Burst-GX, Zapdos threatens a Knock Out to disrupt setup decks like Zoroark-GX and Malamar. Not to mention the Fighting-type Resistance helps cover the Buzzwole matchup.

Zapdos does become a bit weak in the mid-to-late game, but I think tools exist to shore up that issue.


Pikachu & Zekrom-GX – Lightning – HP240
Basic Pokemon (TAG TEAM)

[L][L][L] Full Blitz: 150 damage. Search your deck for up to 3 [L] Energy cards and attach them to 1 of your Pokemon. Then, shuffle your deck.

[L][L][L]+ Tag Bolt GX: 200 damage. If this Pokemon has at least 3 extra [L] Energy attached to it (in addition to this attack’s cost), this attack does 170 damage to 1 of your opponent’s Benched Pokemon. (Don’t apply Weakness and Resistance for Benched Pokemon.) (You can’t use more than 1 GX attack in a game.)

When your TAG TEAM is Knocked Out, your opponent takes 3 Prize cards.

Weakness: Fighting (x2)
Resistance: Metal (-20)
Retreat: 3

  • Overall: 5|5 – Format defining
  • Search: 4|5 – Ultra Ball and Nest Ball
  • Value: 5|5 – Lots of damage and Energy acceleration for the number of cards required

Speaking of mid-to-late game tools, Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. Let’s compare it to Malamar, since I consider Malamar one of the most powerful late-game archetypes.

To Knock Out a Tapu Lele-GX, Necrozma-GX would require three Energy and two Malamar, or about eight total cards. Plus, at the end of the turn, you discard your Energy, leaving a vulnerable board state. Pikachu & Zekrom-GX do the same with an Energy card, a Tapu Koko Prism Star, a damage modifier, and an Energy Switch or Thunder Mountain Prism Star. I evaluate Full Blitz at about six to seven total cards, slightly less than Necrozma-GX. But on top of the smaller card footprint, it uses fewer Bench spaces and attaches more Energy rather than discarding it. Pikachu & Zekrom-GX might struggle to hit massive targets, but it removes Pokemon like Tapu Lele-GX and Zoroark-GX much more efficiently than Necrozma-GX.

Plus, the Energy acceleration pushes Full Blitz over the top. Attaching additional Energy from deck can establish a checkmate board state in matchups like Zoroark-GX / Decidueye-GX / Alolan Ninetales-GX or Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX. Zoroark-GX decks tend to struggle to Knock Out something with as much HP as Pikachu & Zekrom-GX or Zeraora-GX. With six Energy on board, you force a Zoroark-GX deck to reach for two big KOs. Zoroark-GX can take out Pikachu & Zekrom-GX with a GX attack, but they likely lose the game if they cannot deal with your next three-Energy attacker in a single hit. I do not think Zoroark-GX can reliably accomplish this without changing to some entirely new, and overall weaker, archetype like Zoroark-GX / Lucario-GX.

Tag Bolt-GX offers another interesting tool to the deck. In theory, it could severely punish any deck that cannot OHKO a Pikachu & Zekrom-GX after a Full Blitz. A Granbull deck cannot OHKO a Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, which enables you to set up a Tag Bolt-GX turn and then use it to take out two Magcargo in a single turn. In general, I think if you can Full Blitz six Energy onto the field, you would win regardless of Tag Bolt-GX.


Jolteon-GX – Lightning – HP200
Stage 1 – Evolves from Eevee

[L] Electrobullet: 30 damage. This attack does 30 damage to 1 of your opponent’s Benched Pokemon. (Don’t apply Weakness and Resistance for Benched Pokemon.)

[L][C] Head Bolt: 110 damage.

[L][C] Swift Run GX: 110 damage. Prevent all effects of attacks, including damage, done to this Pokemon during your opponent’s next turn. (You can’t use more than 1 GX attack in a game.)

When your Pokemon-GX is Knocked Out, your opponent takes 2 Prize cards.

Weakness: Fighting (x2)
Resistance: Metal (-20)
Retreat: 0

  • Overall: 2|5 – Niche tech
  • Search: 4|5 – Ultra Ball and Energy Evolution Eevee
  • Value: 2|5 – Attack options are not overpowered and Stage 1 Pokemon take up more deck slots than Basic Pokemon

I build all my decks in a toolbox fashion, and I see Jolteon-GX as a tech option for a hypothetical toolbox.

As a rule of thumb, I need tech cards to counter a matchup for a single tech slot. But as a Stage 1 tech, it implicitly demands two deck slots instead of one. I like Electrobullet, but I do not like it enough to justify two deck slots when other options like Zapdos and Raikou exist for a single deck slot.

I could see Swift Run GX swinging a few matchups, but, once again, it feels a tad too expensive in my mind.


Ampharos-GX – Lightning – HP240
Stage 2 – Evolves from Flaaffy

[L] Power Recharge: 30 damage. Put all Electripower cards from your discard pile into your hand.

[L][L] Impact Bolt: 150 damage. Discard all [L] Energy from this Pokemon.

[L] Electrical GX: Search your deck for up to 7 Pokemon, reveal them, and put them into your hand. Then, shuffle your deck. (You can’t use more than 1 GX attack in a game.)

When your Pokemon-GX is Knocked Out, your opponent takes 2 Prize cards.

Weakness: Fighting (x2)
Resistance: Metal (-20)
Retreat: 3

  • Rating: 2|5 – Niche Tech
  • Search: 3|5 – Ultra Ball, etc
  • Value: 2|5 – Stage 2s require a lot of deck slots

In my mind, you can use Ampharos-GX in two ways. You can use it as a primary attacker, aiming to capitalize on Max Potion, attacking for a single Energy. Or you can use it to recover multiple Electropower in a more aggressive deck. I personally prefer the latter.

Tanking with Max Potions feels fundamentally weaker than playing an aggressive, heavy hitting deck. The existence of other Tag Team Pokemon-GX naturally pressures the format into running more OHKO options. And with stall decks gaining ever more tools each set, Max Potion feels like more of a liability than ever before.

But as a Stage 2, I would struggle to fit Ampharos-GX into a deck as a tech Pokemon. I would prefer to run Electrocharger, a card in Team Up that I will review later, or Oranguru over Ampharos-GX for that reason.


Zebstrika – Lightning – HP120
Stage 1 – Evolves from Blitzle

[L][C] Raid: 30+ damage. If this Pokemon evolved from Blitzle during this turn, this attack does 90 more damage.

[L][L][C] Mach Bolt: 100 damage.

Weakness: Fighting (x2)
Resistance: Metal (-20)
Retreat: 1

  • Rating: 1|5 – Awful
  • Search: 3|5 – Ultra Ball, etc
  • Value: 1|5 – Terrible HP, terrible attack cost, terrible damage

I bring this card up because it saw some top placements at Niigata Champions League. Not many single-Prize Lightning-type Pokemon in our format hit hard, and Zebstrika’s Raid attack at least deals reasonable damage. Plus, that damage could scale up to notable numbers with Shrine of Punishment, Electropower and Choice Band. But I would never play it. Zebstrika deals too little damage for the combined Energy and Evolution cost. I would rather run Unit Energy LPM and Trashalanche Garbodor instead, or something along those lines.


Emolga – Lightning – HP60
Basic Pokemon

Ability: Nuzzly Gathering
Once during your turn (before your attack), you may search your deck for a Pokemon that has the Nuzzle attack, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then, shuffle your deck.

[L] Nuzzle: Flip a coin. If heads, your opponent’s Active Pokemon is now Paralyzed.

Weakness: Lightning (x2)
Resistance: Fighting (-20)
Retreat: 0

  • Rating: 4|5 – Good for Lost March
  • Search: 5|5 – Searches itself and generates hand advantage
  • Value: 2|5 – Eats a lot of deck slots for only a marginal consistency boost

I would compare Emolga to Propagation Exeggcute from Expanded: a Pokemon with an Ability that puts a filler card into your hand. While far inferior to Exeggcute, an inferior Exeggcute does deserve attention in Standard. It synergizes particularly well with Pokémon Communication, as it puts Emolgas back into the deck for subsequent turns. But in terms of deck space value, it demands significantly more deck slots than Exeggcute, and most decks cannot afford to burn so many deck slots on filler Pokemon.

There does exist one deck in Standard that could appreciate this kind of filler Pokemon: Lost March. Noel Totomoch pointed this out to me, but you can run Emolga to guarantee additional targets when you draw into your Lost Blender. Now Emolga not only makes your Pokemon Communication, Ultra Ball, and Lost Blender more consistent, but each one extends your deck’s maximum damage output by 20 damage.


Galvantula – Lightning – HP90
Stage 1 – Evolves from Joltik

Ability: Unnerve
Prevent all effects done to this Pokemon by Item or Supporter cards played from your opponent’s hand.

[L] Spider Sled: 40 damage. Search your discard pile for 1 card and put it into your hand.

Weakness: Fighting (x2)
Resistance: Metal (-20)
Retreat: 1

  • Rating: 2|5 – Filler
  • Search: 3|5 – Ultra Ball, etc.
  • Value: 2|5 – Tools feel niche and is Stage 1

How would you use this card? Perhaps as a stall counter? I would prefer Oranguru as that eats up fewer deck slots. What about in some sort of “Trap in the Active position” archetype? Unfortunately, those archetypes never perform well.

Ultimately, this card feels like filler.


Tapu Koko Prism Star – Lightning – HP130
Basic Pokemon

You can’t have more than 1 Prism Star card with the same name in your deck. If a Prism Star card would go to the discard pile, put it in the Lost Zone instead.

Ability: Ancestor’s Dance
Once during your turn (before your attack), if this Pokemon is on your Bench, you may use this Ability. Choose 2 of your Benched Pokemon and attach 1 [L] Energy from your discard pile to each of them. Then, put this Pokemon in the Lost Zone (discard all cards attached to this Pokemon).

[L][L][C] Mach Bolt: 120 damage.

Weakness: Fighting (x2)
Resistance: Metal (-20)
Retreat: 1

  • Rating: 5|5 – Format defining
  • Search: 4|5 – Ultra Ball and Nest Ball
  • Value: 5|5 – This effect normally requires two Stage 1 Pokemon

Compare this to something like Aqua Patch: Not only can you search it with Nest Ball and Ultra Ball, but it offers twice as much value per deck slot as Aqua Patch.

This deck expands Lightning’s options, and could even see play in other decks as Colorless Energy acceleration.

I do not think I need to say more.


Electrode – Lightning – HP90
Stage 1 – Evolves from Voltorb

Ability: Energy Shaker
Once during your turn, when you play this card from your hand to evolve a Pokemon, you may move any number of [L] Energy cards attached to your Pokemon to your other Pokemon in any way you like.

[L][C] Speed Ball: 50 damage.

Weakness: Fighting (x2)
Resistance: Metal (-20)
Retreat: 1

  • Rating: 2|5 – Filler
  • Search: 3|5 – Ultra Ball, etc
  • Value: 2|5 – Ability is good, but only activated once and Stage 1

Zeraora – Lightning – HP120
Basic Pokemon

[C] Slash: 20 damage.

[L][L][C] Wild Bolt: 120 damage. This Pokemon does 20 damage to itself.

Weakness: Fighting (x2)
Resistance: Metal (-20)
Retreat: 1

  • Rating: 2|5 – Better options exist
  • Search: 4|5 – Ultra Ball and Nest Ball
  • Value: 2|5 – Filler


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