Hey there, readers! It’s Carl and I’m here today to show off some work I’ve done on the upcoming Unbroken Bonds set! With the flurry of Regionals, League Cups, and other tournaments over the past few weeks, it has been easy to not hear the hype surrounding our newest set, Unbroken Bonds, set to release in early May. Prereleases are creeping up on us, and I am actually so excited to get my hands on a lot of these cards to start the testing for Madison Regionals and NAIC!
If you haven’t done much work on the new set so far, don’t worry! I’ve been collaborating with my friend Jac Carter on a ton of new lists and analysis on all of the new cards we are receiving. In this article, we will look over interesting new inclusions to existing archetypes, and show you some preliminary lists we have worked on and tested out a bit. This set brings something new to nearly every existing archetype, while bringing forth some new archetypes like Buzzwole & Pheromosa Tag Team GX and Charizard & Reshiram Tag Team GX. First, we will look at some neat cards from the set, and then show off some early decklists for you to try to hold you over until Unbroken Bonds becomes legal. Let’s hop right into it.
(Since Unbroken Bonds is the fusion of Japan’s Night Unison, Double Blaze, and Full Metal Wall sets, I am going to segment them into mini-sets just to keep things linear with the notes I have on them.)
“Night Unison” (Translations can be found at the following link: https://www.pokebeach.com/2019/01/all-night-unison-cards)
– Kyurem: Kyurem could be a tool for Quagsire/Naganadel decks in a future format without the mobility provided by Guzma. The ability to paralyze without flipping is really nice without having to worry about the one card that ruins every status condition, and it’s easy to recover Water Energy from the Discard pile with the deck anyway. Not a staple by any means, but another neat tool to think about.
– Dedenne-GX: There has been a ton of buzz around this card, and for good reason. The Ability to discard and draw six is really useful for set-up decks or decks that thrive on using resources in the Discard. The obvious drawback, like it’s cousin Shaymin-EX before it, is that it is an easy two prizes for your opponent with a not-entirely-irrelevant weakness. Giovanni’s Exile is a decent way to clear this, and with Tapu Lele-GX expected to leave the format this September, this might be the new motor that decks turn to for a turbo turn one.
– Marshadow: Marshadow is a super-neat little card that provides you with the ability to remove a Stadium card from play while also letting you knock out Ultra Beasts like Buzzwole and Naganadel. For a single Energy, it takes a knockout on Naganadel and Buzzwole, and with a Choice Band, it stomps Buzzwole-GX. It’s a searchable Field Blower that can bounce Prism Star Stadiums, and with Stadium cards becoming a more prevalent part of the metagame, this card could see a ton of play.
– Quagsire: This Quagsire is another neat tool that Naganadel/Quagsire decks can use to deal with big attackers like Zoroark, Zeraora-GX, and Pikachu & Zekrom Tag Team GX. It never feels great to evolve a Wooper into this Quagsire over the “Wash Out” Quagsire, but if you do, it’s easier than Onix to charge up and take a big retaliatory or preemptive KO on a giant, Fighting-weak threat.
– Greninja & Zoroark Tag Team GX: This card should get some play in Expanded, and for good reason. It’s easy to power up Dark type attackers in Expanded thanks to Dark Patch and Max Elixir, and it’s more durable than Darkrai-EX. You can use many different Dark type attackers with Greninja & Zoroark Tag Team GX, and it provides a big threat for the deck that previously had to rely on a slightly more frail Darkrai-EX for offense. Games can snowball out of control for your opponent if you can flood the board with enough Energy and offensive threats thanks to this interesting new card.
– Gardevoir & Sylveon Tag Team GX: This is probably my favorite Pokémon from this set. It’s a big Basic with a mostly-irrelevant weakness. It charges your Bench and has, in my opinion, the best GX-attack ever printed. Making your opponent ditch their hand back into the deck while having a big attacker on board could be enough to give you the game if they can’t draw out of it, and stabilizing against a huge attacker like Gardevoir & Sylveon GX is a tough ask. 150 is sort of weak without a direct way to buff Fairy-type damage, but using the GX attack to take a big knockout will often be enough to get you to the win. I want to say that overall, this card leaves a little to be desired, but its GX attack alone is enough to get people trying it.
– Venomoth GX: At first glance, Venomoth-GX is sort of slow. It requires two Energy attachments to do any damage, which is typically a death knell to viability in our current format. However, if you can get it Active and attacking, Venomoth-GX has the ability to completely wall off your opponent. Combining it with Janine walls off tons of current and future attackers from doing damage to Venomoth-GX, including every Tag Team GX Pokémon in the game. Combining it with Koga’s Trap and a Choice Band helps you hit 240, an important number in our current game, and with a couple of Seviper, it secures a knockout on most other Tag Teams. I don’t think Venomoth will ultimately prove to be game-breaking in any sense, but I definitely believe it will be a fun card to tool around with and try to break, since the meta consists of a lot of important offensive Basic Pokémon.
– Charjabug: Charjabug turns Vikavolt into an interesting rogue deck choice. Charjabug’s Ability states that you can attach it to a Vikavolt as a Special Energy card as a double Lightning Energy. Best of all, this does not count as your attachment for turn. Vikavolt hits 220 without the use of a damage buff, and as a Lightning type, it can be buffed with Electropower and Choice Band to hit huge knockouts on GX Pokémon. To top it off, with a Stadium card in play, Vikavolt has no weakness! I think that Vikavolt is the most viable rogue deck coming out of Unbroken Bonds, and with many ways to get back Charjabug from the Discard pile (Lure Ball and Rescue Stretcher,) I think Charjabug makes Vikavolt a sneaky play if you’re going for an off-meta choice.
– Vikavolt: Vikavolt, as discussed above, is a really interesting card. Being able to hit a potential 370 with all of your available buffs is simply outrageous. Being able to instantly be powered up thanks to Charjabug is equally dangerous. Lastly, not having a weakness with a Stadium in play makes Vikavolt pretty tough to take a retaliatory knockout on. Altogether, this card has all the tools necessary to be an interesting rogue deck that theoretically goes toe-to-toe with any archetype.
– Zeraora: The new single-prize Zeraora provides a way for Zapdos single-prize-attacker decks to at least disrupt Zoroark a little bit. With no direct way to recover Special Energy outside of Oranguru, Zeraora can theoretically allow Zapdos decks to remove all of Zoroark’s Double Colorless Energy over the course of a game. Or it can at least help you set them back for a turn. Its second attack also provides some sneaky power, allowing you to hit 150 base damage as a Lightning type. Buff that a few times and it could help you hit the GX knockout you need to help you steal a game. I think it’s an interesting card worth testing that will ultimately fall a little short of where it needs to be, but it introduces a disruptive element to Lightning archetypes.
– Gligar: Gligar provides a way for decks running Counter Gain and Double Colorless Energy to get knockouts on huge threats like Zoroark, Pikachu & Zekrom Tag Team GX, and everything else that is Fighting-weak. It also has free retreat when there is no Energy on it, which is great because it’s only a Bench sitter until you’re taking a big KO with it anyway. I think Gligar is another great tool for decks like Zoroark, Venomoth, and other archetypes that can use Janine to their benefit.
– Electromagnetic Radar: Here is another neat tool for GX-heavy Lightning decks. Effectively an Ultra Ball for two Pokémon (thought they have to be Lightning type EX/GXs), this can help you hit a huge combo turn due to discarding Lightning energy and using Tapu Koko Prism Star to attach them that same turn to whatever it is you search out.
– Surprise Box: This is an interesting card for the playability of Omastar/Gengar. It effectively adds another 50 damage to “Poltergeist,” and it’ll mostly likely be a card your opponent can’t even play. A couple of Surprise Box can help you ramp damage and could actually be what Gengar needs to make it a more viable threat.
– PokeGear 3.0: It’s back! PokeGear is an incredible card for consistency, and it’s extremely good in single-prize-attacker decks. It renders Tapu-Lele as a 1-of/obsolete in some builds, and can really help you get off to the fast start you’re often looking for. This is a great boost for most decks, and can help more games actually become competitive games in the event you get hit with a turn one “Let Loose.”
– Fairy Charm Ability: Fairy Charm Ability is a great tool for Fairy types. Fairy Charm Ability and Fairy Charm UB will see play in Gardevoir & Sylveon GX decks as a way to preserve and outlast various meta decks, and for good reason. This card could lead to the rise of Field Blower counts. I think the Fairy Charms are a great subset of type support, and could be extremely annoying if the meta falls correctly for Fairy types.
– Lt. Surge’s Strategy: The card everyone is talking about. Lt. Surge might finally be the comeback card we need, with potential to be an absolute nightmare to play against if your opponent is piloting a Control variant. Playing two extra Supporters on your turn is simply a broken effect, and it could lead to huge swing turns with Guzma plays combined with another Supporter, or the combination of Judge/Mars/Unfair GX of Honchkrow. I was a bit nervous about this card’s printing at first, but once we get to a format without Lele-GX and Zoroark, I think it might actually be what we need to make late-game interaction more competitive and strategic. Or I could be totally wrong and it could destroy our game. I tend to be an optimist.
– Janine: Janine obviously works best with Venomoth-GX; when combined with it’s attack it prevents all Basic Pokémon from damaging Venomoth. It also has an interesting digging effect, letting you move two of the top four cards of your deck to your hand. It also works well with Gligar, letting you grab a KO on anything in the meta that is Fighting-weak. Janine is a niche card that only really has value in its own deck, but it allows for some cute effects for Pokémon that are really good anti-meta threats.
– Koga’s Trap: Koga’s Trap is effectively a Pluspower in Supporter form that also confuses the opposing Active. I happen to think that this is extremely good. Combined with Seviper BUS, Koga can add upwards of 50 damage to whatever attack you’re going to use that turn. A Koga/Seviper package buffs the attacks of Pokémon like Zoroark and Persian to huge new heights, and without mobility on your opponent’s end, it may set you up to swing momentum with a Confusion flip. I think Koga’s Trap has viability in a lot of decks and it’ll be an interesting card to tool around with.
“Full Metal Wall” (Translations can be found at the following link: https://www.pokebeach.com/2019/01/all-full-metal-wall-cards-revealed)
– Pheromosa & Buzzwole GX: The card that has been all the rage in Japan; Pheromosa & Buzzwole Tag Team GX brings so much to the table. With the ability to spread, the use of “Beast Game GX” and Beast Bringer to swing single-prize attacker matchups, and the use of Beast Ring and Lusamine Prism Star, it’s easy to run the table with just two of these. Fire weakness is a big liability with the release of Unbroken Bonds, but this card shows a ton of promise and it could prove to be too much to overcome for many decks after its release.
– Kartana: Kartana is a great single prize attacker that effectively takes a knockout on all single-prize-attackers that are used for offense in the current format. It can help Zapdos/Ultra Beasts not need to dig so deep for a knockout, preserving Electropowers and other buffs for the later stages of the game where they are of dire importance. It feels good to have a card that can one-shot a Wailord &Magikarp Tag Team GX that only requires one attachment. Shaymin was our alternative beforehand, but having one that is guaranteed to be around after rotation is a welcome sight.
– Stakataka: Stakataka can be an absolute tank that you can essentially force your opponent to play into. Combined with a Beast Ring, it has a way to be charged up quickly, and at 200-HP, you can do some serious damage to your opponent’s remaining deck count with a few fortunate flips. I think that Stakataka is a great card overall that has great typing and weakness, and I think it’s one of the more underrated cards to be released in this set.
– Lucario & Melmetal GX: This card is receiving some moderate hype, and for good reason. It’s GX attack, combined with all of the other tools that Metal decks have for durability, make Metal a sneaky-good archetype that can simply wall some decks out of the game. It’s weakness is absolutely terrible, however, and you’ll have to work with a potential list to either eliminate that or gear it toward creating states where your opponent can’t overcome its HP. It has been used successfully as a stall deck in other countries, and I think the same can be done here. However, Fire types will always be a huge threat with Blacephalon existing and the new support the type receives as a whole.
– Hitmontop: This card puts HitmonFriends on the map. 60 spread to everything on a non-GX attack is broken. Combined with Fighting Dojo and the existing Fighting support in Diancie Prism Star, HitmonFriends can pile on the damage in a hurry. The game plan of the deck is pretty linear, but if your opponent doesn’t have the perfect answer to disrupt the Hitmonchan > Hitmonlee > Hitmontop progression you’re trying to set up, the game could be over quickly. Zapdos seems like a problem, and not a problem at the same time; two attacks from Hitmontop could easily end a game, and with pretty good typing in Fighting, I think this is another sneaky rogue deck worth testing.
– Green’s Search: Green’s Search is one of the best cards we are receiving from this set. A staple in decks that don’t use Abilities, such as Pheromosa & Buzzwole GX, it allows you to go grab two Trainer cards for free. It absolutely helps you build toward huge swing turns and is a great way to compile pieces for big turns with big Basic Pokémon. You could also potentially combo it with Silent Lab or Deserted Power Plant to use its effect even with Ability Pokémon in play. This card needs to be in your collection because it opens up new lines of play and techs thanks to making half of your deck immediately searchable.
– Power Plant: Finally, there is (psuedo) Ability lock in Standard again! We effectively get N + “Garbotoxin” back in the form of Reset Stamp and Power Plant, and you still get to play a Supporter. This set introduces tons of ways for us to come back in games now, and this Stadium is a welcome sight for decks that just want to hit hard and fast. I love how prevalent Stadium cards are getting, and this will be an excellent tool for many decks to utilize different strategies with.
– Beast Bringer: Beast Bringer is an awesome way for GX-centric Ultra Beast decks to attempt to compete with some of the single-prize Pokémon archetypes. Though it wasn’t featured in any of the notable Ultra Beasts decks of Japan, it’s easily searchable with some of the new tools we have, and could provide an easy way for Ultra Beast decks to just aggro their way into a win against some of the more prevalent single-prize decks we presently have.
“Double Blaze” (Translations can be found at the following link:
– Charizard & Reshiram GX: One of the defining cards from the newest set, Charizard & Reshiram Tag Team GX has had some success in Japan and looks to do the same here stateside. With TONS of new Fire type support on the horizon in Unbroken Bonds, charging up a Charizard & Reshiram is really no problem. With a cheap attack that relies on damage put onto it, it’s very realistic to see Charizard & Reshiram sweep four prizes in every game thanks to two powerful attacks that are easy to charge up. This could be a meta-defining card and it will definitely see play.
– Volcanion: This is going to be the Basic Pokémon you play in Fire decks. This card helps level out going second and serves as even more acceleration for Fire decks.A formidable attacker in its own right, this is a card that can help you keep up against one-prize Pokémon decks even if you’re using it in combination with cards like Charizard & Reshiram or Blacephalon.
– Salazzle: This Pokémon is so useful for its awesome Ability, “Roast Reveal;” this Ability allows you to discard a Fire Energy to draw three cards. This is such a great consistency boost for Fire decks, providing them with the engine they need to use cards like Fiery Flint, Welder, etc. It even allows for a cute 1-of copy of Salazzle-GX for closing out games. Salazzle is an incredible card and it only adds to the slew of new Fire support for the various archetypes popping up.
– Blacephalon: Great non-GX attacker for Blacephalon decks, of course, and also very formidable in its own right. It is incredibly easy to get Fire Energy cards into your hand, and this Pokémon serves as a just-as-good Beast Ring target against GX decks to help you take an advantage on the prize trade. Baby Blacephalon is really good and only adds to the power that Blacephalon, in all of its incarnations, possesses.
– Dewgong: A pretty good counter-attacker to a lot of the Fire support we are getting. KO any 180 Fire Pokémon with a Double Colorless Energy and a Choice Band. It can also spread 60 damage to two Pokémon for two attachments. Dewgong is a really nice attacker capable of setting up Bench sitters and Active Pokémon alike for one-shots in the following turns. I am pretty excited to play around with Dewgong because it’s relatively easy to charge and has a lot of utility in being able to take two prizes at once as early as turn two, or to set up one-shots in exchange for one prize.
– Weezing: Weezing represents a really great counter against the Big Basics archetypes coming with this set, in addition to being a really oppressive spread archetype unlike any we have seen in recent memory. I think this card has tons of playability and it will certainly be featured in it’s own archetype. I’m excited to play around with this and not-so-excited to learn how to play certain decks against it.
– Mew: Finally, a new “Bench Barrier” Pokémon! Mew is a “Bench Barrier” that can be searched out with Elm’s Lecture and Mysterious Treasure. Careful, though; “Sky Scorching Light GX” and similar attacks and effects still go through. Regardless, it’s so nice to have a new Bench defending Pokeémon to provide a hard counter to spread strategies that only seem to grow with this sets release.
– Mismagius: One of the flagship Pokémon from this upcoming set, and for good reason. Dusk Stone makes it possible to evolve to Mismagius turn one, and its Ability allows you to KO itself to draw until you have seven in hand. This plays hand in hand with counter-effects like Counter Catcher, Counter Energy, and Lt. Surge’s Strategy. This card is incredible for consistency and often leads to some pretty insane combo turns in early testing. The evolution/stone dynamic is hella neat, too. Mismagius will see play for sure and it’ll help offset an early “Let Loose” you get stuck with.
– Honchkrow GX: A Dusk Stone leads to turn one Special Energy/Stadium/Tool lock thanks to the power of Honchkrow-GX. Though it’s weakness is really detrimental, Honchkrow-GX allows you to simply shut down an opponent’s turn one momentum, spread damage to EX and GX Pokémon, and even lets you go into your opponent’s hand and make them ditch any two cards. It’s the ultimate disruption for where we currently are in Pokeémon right now, and it is definitely a Pokémon worth tooling around with. Zoroark stands to get even weaker.
– Whimsicott GX: Whimsicott-GX is a really interesting card with a few different uses. It can be used to tank, set up, or even just run through a few Pokémon if you get enough Energy on it. “Toybox GX” lets you search for any five cards, and with the likely decrease in play of Marshadow, it’ll be hard for your opponent to directly disrupt your hand. Its attack is underwhelming, but with a good degree of durability thanks to its Ability, Whimsicott is a neat card with a few different uses that I think is just waiting to be broken.
– Persian GX: Persian-GX possesses an incredible Ability and attack. The problem is finding the right build for it. I believe Persian-GX can be ran in a Zoroark Control deck to great results, as its Ability lets you search your deck for any two cards after a GX has been knocked out. Combined with the power of new Supporters like Lt. Surge, a knockout could be the best thing that happens to you with the power of Persian-GX. In addition to that, it’s a good offensive threat in its own right, with the ability to Triple Acceleration Energy up an attack that can hit for 190 base damage. Combined with a few buffs, you might find yourself taking big knockouts on Tag Team GX Pokémon.
– Fire Crystal: The ability to put three Fire Energy from your Discard pile into your hand without using your Supporter is really good news for the new baby Blacephalon. It also synergizes very well with the new Salazzle. I can see a single-prize Fire deck being viable with Blacephalon, Beast Rings, and the ability to just rip off 150+ damage turns over and over behind a single-prize-attacker. Definitely a great card.
– Dusk Stone: Dusk Stone is an incredible card for Mismagius and Honckkrow. Getting either of these evolution Pokémon up on turn one is an incredible advantage for you. The consistency gained from Mismagius and the disruption and potential for early lock on your opponent is so powerful.
– Welder: Welder allows you to attach two Fire Energy from hand to a Pokémon and draw three. It’s really great to see some decent Fire acceleration; this is the kind of thing that makes decks viable. Somewhat situational, since there isn’t a Pokémon in Standard that can put Energy into your hand, but Fire Crystal is an adequate replacement and Fire decks seem to run tons of Energy anyway. I see this card being neat in Expanded Volcanion as well.
– Fighting Dojo: This is a pretty great Stadium for Fighting types; Brooklet Hill is likely still superior, but this card really gives Fighting a nice comeback mechanic. HitmonFriends loves this Stadium and it can lead to some pretty big turns. Pull off a Hitmontop once or twice and you can find yourself taking a few prizes at once. Worth testing out, for sure.
– Red’s Challenge: Computer Search as a Supporter you can play four of, but we really only see this being bonkers in Expanded Zoroark. Zoroark getting another Computer Search effect that they can recycle is absolutely insane. I think it’s going to be run in Zoroark (Expanded) to great results.
– Giovanni’s Exile: Discards two undamaged Benched Pokémon. This can be used with cards like Giratina as well; I really like it in Malamar, since I’ve been losing games from having to bench Lele-GX or Marshadow early and not having enough space for attackers. It can also combo in Malamar by allowing you to “Distortion Door” when you’ve already Benched Giratina, making “Sky Scorching Light GX” better against decks like Zapdos and Spread variants. Finally, it’s an easy way to ditch the new Dedenne-GX. I think Giovanni’s Exile is an excellent card that will see play in certain decks, and for good reason. It allows for decks to, in a way, be more consistent by allowing them to play a Lele-GX knowing they have a few turns to bump it off.
– Triple Acceleration Energy: Triple Acceleration Energy is insanely cool. It’s a great way to power up Pokémon that have not seen play in the past. Suddenly, Pokémon like Persian-GX, Dewgong, Aerodactyl TEU and even Nidoqueen TEU become so much more playable thanks to the addition of Triple Acceleration Energy.
Here are a few sample decks that Jac and I made to test out some of the newer cards in this set. A very minimal amount of testing has gone into these decks, and they are just starting points for some cards we want to play around with. Nothing refined, but some of our preliminary ideas of the things we want to try first once the set drops. Enjoy, and hit me up with any feedback on Twitter. I’m sure we’ve forgotten at least one or two neat ideas that our readers might have.
4 Weezing UBO
4 Koffing UBO
4 Tapu Koko
1 Tapu Lele (Psychic)
3 Red’s Challenge
2 Ultra Ball
2 Mysterious Treasure
4 Nest Ball
4 Pokegear 3.0
3 Choice Band
2 Rescue Stretcher
2 Counter Catcher
4 Shrine of Punishment
4 Double Colorless Energy
4 Counter Energy
3 Venonat UBO
3 Venomoth-GX UBO
3 Treecko LOT
2 Grovyle LOT
1 Sceptile-GX LOT
1 Sceptile CES
2 Tapu Lele-GX
2 Marshadow SLG
1 Ditto Prism Star LOT
2 Professor Elm’s Lecture
3 Koga’s Trap
1 Lt. Surge’s Strategy
4 Net Ball
2 Ultra Ball
3 Choice Band
3 Pokegear 3.0
1 Pal Pad
1 Rescue Stretcher
1 Life Forest Prism Star
6 Grass Energy
4 Double Colorless Energy
4 Grubbin UBO
4 Charjabug UBO
3 Vikavolt UBO
3 Jirachi TEU
2 Zapdos TEU
1 Marshadow UBO
1 Alolan Vulpix GRI
2 Bill’s Analysis
4 Nest Ball
4 Rare Candy
3 Ultra Ball
3 Escape Board
3 Rescue Stretcher
2 Lure Ball
1 Thunder Mountain Prism Star
4 Lightning Energy
4 Pheromosa & Buzzwole-GX UBO
4 Green’s Search
3 Lt. Surge’s Strategy
1 Erika’s Hospitality
1 Lusamine Prism Star
4 Pokegear 3.0
4 Beast Ring
4 Custom Catcher
3 Net Ball
3 Max Potion
1 Wait and See Hammer
1 Field Blower
3 Choice Band
2 Power Plant
1 Life Forest Prism Star
10 Grass Energy
1 Beast Energy Prism
Notes: Japanese list. With Fire coming to the top-tiers, may need some Weakness Policies to stay alive.
3 Charmander BUS 18
1 Charmander TEU 12
4 Charizard TEU 14
2 Salandit UPR
2 Salazzle UBO
3 Jirachi TEU
4 Rare Candy
4 Ultra Ball
4 Nest Ball
1 Rescue Stretcher
1 Energy Recycler
2 Choice Band
2 Escape Board
1 Heat Factory Prism Star
1 Shrine of Punishment
14 Fire Energy
Notes: Based on a Japanese list that did well. Welder allows you to hit the big boy numbers.
Thank you so much for reading! I know it was a handful, but I am just so excited to be writing for this website. If you want to play any games, brew up some ideas, or just talk about Pokemon TCG, feel free to contact me on Twitter at @peezyptcg or on Facebook at Carl PB. Thank you, everyone for the constant support. I truly love this community. Until next time!