With the release of Lost Thunder, the Standard metagame is in for a massive shakeup with the set’s whopping 236 cards making it the largest TCG set release in Pokémon history. The set is like getting two sets released at once, at least Pokémon wise, so this, along with Dragon Majesty, helps advance the meta to a very large card pool and opens up the deckbuilding possibilities.
With a much more expansive card pool now available in Standard, there’s a lot to go through as far as deckbuilding goes. Two cards that have piqued my interest are Ditto Prism Star and Naganadel. These cards are both very versatile and I think they will be key deckbuilding components in Standard going forward. In this article, I discuss how players can use these cards in their deckbuilding.
Ditto Prism Star
Over the next few seasons, if a player is playing a Stage 1 deck, there is a good bet that they will be playing Ditto Prism Star in their deck. Its “Almighty Evolution” Ability allows you to evolve it into any Stage 1 Pokémon.
There are two primary roles that Ditto Prism Star is able to play in a deck.
- 5th Basic Pokémon
- Wildcard Basic
One of the limitations in the Pokémon TCG is that we can only play four copies of a card with the same name. If you are playing an Alolan Exeggutor deck you’re limited to playing four Exeggcute, however, with Ditto, you have a fifth Basic Pokémon that you can evolve into an Alolan Exeggutor which essentially allows you to play a 5-4 line. If you plan on attacking with only that Pokémon for the entirety of the game, being able to play a fifth Basic makes it easier to stream that Pokémon and can also help mitigate prizing issues.
Not every deck will need a fifth Basic. Naganadel/Blacephalon GX, for example, can get by with four Poipole just fine, as Naganadel plays a support role in the deck where a 4-3 or 4-4 line is more than enough for it to be effective in fulfilling its intended role. In decks where you’re using your Stage 1 as a main attacker you will be more likely to want a fifth Basic.
Where Ditto really shines is as a wild card Basic Pokémon that you can evolve into various different Stage 1s that you are playing in your deck. This allows you to get really creative with your deckbuilding and add some consistency to your lists.
I think there are two key ways that Ditto is typically being used right now. First, in decks playing two Stage 1 lines, players typically use it as a shared Basic Pokémon between the two evolution lines. If you’re playing Zoroark GX/Lycanroc GX, you can play Ditto, and then evolve it into one or the other depending on what’s more beneficial to the situation.
The other use for Ditto is to use it in your deck to add Stage 1 techs to your deck. As you already have Ditto in your deck acting as a Basic for your main lines, you can get by with just adding the Stage 1 Pokémon tech, having the tech take up only one spot in your deck compared to the normal two spots taken up by a 1-1 line.
It is definitely risky to rely on Ditto as your only Basic for one of your tech Pokémon. If Ditto is knocked out it goes to the Lost Zone and you’re locked out of your tech. Even if you do get your tech into play, you won’t be able to get it back into play if it gets knocked out.
If people sniff out that you don’t have a pre-evolution, they may even choose to proactively knockout the Ditto to prevent you from being able to get into your tech. This can be an observation an opponent makes during an early game in a best of three match, or something they could be tipped off about by a friend who played or watched you play earlier in the day.
For this reason, I typically play a 1-1 line of my tech Pokémon in decks with Ditto. This way I can access my tech multiple times in the same game and have other routes into the tech beyond Ditto, allowing me to evolve my Ditto into other evolution lines other than my tech if need be without cutting off my tech option by doing so.
Another minor reason to play the 1-1 line of your tech Pokémon is as a safeguard against players slipping Wobbuffet from Lost Thunder into their deck. It shuts off the Abilities of Prism Star Pokémon (and prevents them from attacking), so you wouldn’t be able to evolve from Ditto Prism Star when your opponent has Wobbuffet on their bench.
Sometimes it even makes sense to play a 1-2 line of a Pokémon, making it a pseudo 2-2 line with Ditto. I do this in my ThunderCats list, where I wanted a 2-2 Zebstrika line, so I played that, but I swapped out one of the Blitzle for the Ditto so I have the option to evolve my second Zebstrika pre-evolution into a Naganadel if the situation calls upon it.
Teching with Ditto
With Ditto, decks will now have greater access to a pool of tech Stage 1 Pokémon that they can add to their deck. I think through these tech Pokémon that players include in their deck, Ditto will allow players to show off some higher levels of deckbuilding and metagaming skills through these techs than has been possible in some of the more recent Standard formats.
Some of these techs are more general tech Pokémon that can be used across a multitude of decks in the same fashion to get the same effect from that card, while others are going to be more deck specific.
- Alolan Muk SUM – This can be used to shut off Shuckle GX’s “Protective Shell” Ability in decks that attack for one or two Energy. It can also be used to shut off Oranguru’s “Instruct,” which effectively allows you to counter Shrine decks such as Granbull, that are heavily reliant on the Magcargo/Oranguru engine to work.
- Alolan Dugtrio SUM – This can act as a counter to Malamar decks, increasing their Pokémon’s retreat cost by one, nullifying the effect of Escape Board. Headed into this format it’s not a given that Malamar lists will still play Escape Board, so be careful with that assumption, but I think the best lists likely will still be playing it.
- Gumshoos GX – For Stage 1 decks without a OHKO attack, or GX attack, Gumshoos GX might make sense. Gumshoe Chance GX does 210 damage when your opponent has four Energy in play. This will be very meta specific in whether decks that get lots of Energy in play at one time will be popular or not, but if they are, then this could be a useful GX attack.
- Salazzle GRI – Salazzle leaves the opponent’s active Pokémon Poisoned and Burned, essentially making Salazzle a triple PlusPower. I don’t think this will be a popular tech for decks as it’s a one-time use Ability, but there may be some decks that end up in a meta where this type of Ability could swing games.
- Machoke GRI – This is the only solid counter against spread decks as well as damaging Abilities, such as Decidueye GX’s “Feather Arrow.” There is decent hype for Alolan Ninetales GX/Decidueye GX headed into the Lost Thunder Format, so Stage 1 decks that are susceptible to Decidueye GX can turn to Machoke to save their Pokémon.
- Lycanroc GX – Like Salazzle, it’s a one-time use Ability so it probably won’t be too popular as a tech in these decks, but as we’ve seen from the power of decks like BuzzRoc and ZoroRoc, Lycanroc GX is one of the best cards in the format, and its “Bloodthirsty Eyes” Ability can swing games in a big way, allowing you to get both a gust effect and play a draw Supporter in your turn.
- Raichu BUS – This is another one-time use Ability, this one paralyzing the opponent’s active Pokémon. I don’t think this card is very good in Standard format and wouldn’t recommend playing this. Four Guzma is a pretty standard count in most decks, Escape Board can be used to escape Special Conditions, and decks are playing actual switching cards now as well.
- Zoroark GX – This can be splashed into any Stage 1 deck without having to add a Zorua into the list to incorporate it. Zoroark GX, while obviously the great centerpiece to its own decks, is still a great tech. It gives you an Ultra Ball out for draw, and it can step in as a solid attacker.
- Drifblim UPR – This was talked about as a counter to Shrine of Punishment decks early in the season, and it still could be used as a counter to spread decks if they’re popular. However, it’s not as good as it may have been earlier in the season as most of the Shrine decks that should be played out of Lost Thunder (Giratina/Malamar, Granbull, and Alolan Exeggutor) can OHKO it fairly easily making it much less effective than it was in SUM-CES.
- Magcargo CES – Similar to Zoroark GX, this is another utility tech. If you add this into a deck, you will typically want to be playing Oranguru SUM or Zoroark GX so that you can get access to the card you “Smooth Over” for immediately.
- Electrode GX – This is an option for non-GX decks to accelerate Energy. I don’t think this card is great in Standard right now, however. We don’t have any cards like N or Ace Trainer that could be played in conjunction with the knockout. We do have the whole suite of counter cards, but without limiting your hand size like you could with something like Ace Trainer, it’s too easy for your opponent to win games when they only need to take four to win.
- Zebstrika LOT – This is another draw support Pokémon that you can search out to turn Ditto into draw. Zebstrika has one of the best draw Abilities in the game and works great in non-GX decks as it is a non-GX itself.
- Shedinja LOT – A sneaky option, but Shedinja could be used to turn your Ditto into a Life Dew for your Pokémon.
- Alolan Ninetales GX – This is another utility option, letting you search your deck for two Item cards when you evolve into it. I doubt it will be optimal to play this off of Ditto as a legitimate tech option. I don’t think you would get great use out of it playing it in this way, and rather building your deck to fully utilize this card will provide better results. If you are playing a deck with Alolan Ninetales and have Ditto in play, obviously evolving into it while it’s a wildcard Basic Pokémon can still be very good.
- Lurantis SM25 – In Grass and Fire decks Lurantis can be played to give your Pokémon +20 damage on their attacks. Expect to see this played in Alolan Exeggutor decks as it allows them to hit for 140 damage with Tropical Shake, pushing them through the 130 HP barrier.
- Garbodor GRI – I really like the idea of playing Ditto as a fifth Inkay in Malamar decks and then also playing a Garbodor GRI as a tech attacker. Trashalanche is one of the most powerful attacks in the game and Malamar is a logical deck to slip this into, since you already play Psychic Energy to power up its attack.
- Salazzle GX – Salazzle GX is a powerful attacker for Fire decks that is fairly easy to power up as all its attacks only take two attachments. It could potentially be used in Blacephalon GX decks as a counter to Sceptile.
- Lycanroc GX – This is listed under general techs, but it’s also great in Fighting decks where you can use Dangerous Rogue GX as an OHKO attack.
- Abamasnow UPR/FLI – We have two types of these, one Grass and one Water type, which can be used for a surprise Energy acceleration off of a Ditto. A surprise Energy attachment can let you power up a two-attachment attack in one turn which could swing a game. As a one-time use Ability, like the other one-time use Abilities, I think it’s less likely that this will see play, as it could be hard to use it consistently.
- Quagsire DRM – This could be a great tech option in Water based Naganadel decks. You can accelerate Energy from the discard pile with Naganadel’s “Charging Up” Ability and then move it to your active Pokémon, something like a Lapras GX or Volcanion Prism Star, and then attack with those attackers.
- Altaria DRM – In evolution Dragon decks you could play Altaria in the same way that you would use Lurantis in Grass and Fire decks, using it for the +20 damage. This is a little more intriguing, as you could play three Altaria in a deck and aim to get them out by using a combination of Ditto and Lance Prism Star, getting yourself three Altaria in play without needing to play any Swablu.
There are a lot more deck specific techs that could be slid into decks, but I think these are the most likely to be relevant in the short term.
The next card that I think really opens up deckbuilding from Lost Thunder is Naganadel. Its “Charging Up” Ability attaches a basic Energy card from your discard pile to itself but doesn’t specify any particular Energy type, allowing Naganadel to be very versatile in the types of decks that can use it as an engine.
As an attacker, I think Naganadel is often overrated. 80 damage with Turning Point’s base damage isn’t very much in the current meta, and it doesn’t do effective damage to trade with some of the higher HP non-GX Pokémon, nor trade properly with higher HP GX Pokémon like Zoroark GX, Gardevoir GX, and Tyranitar GX, among others.
When I say Naganadel is situational in its effectiveness as an attacker, I mostly mean that it is very matchup dependent. Against Psychic-weak non-GX Pokémon, such as Trashalanche Garbodor and baby Buzzwole it’s terrific, being able to OHKO them with ease. It’s also a solid attacker against Lost March, being able to OHKO both Jumpluff and Natu.
Where its use an attacker falls short is against things like Granbull and Alolan Exeggutor, which have higher HP. Taking a 2HKO on non-GX’s that can OHKO you back creates a poor prize trade.
It’s also a very good attacker against GX Pokémon that are weak to Psychic, as you can OHKO anything up to 220 HP as long as you have a Choice Band or Beast Energy attached to it. This makes it a good attacker against Buzzwole GX and Necrozma GX in particular.
The other quiet issue that can sneak up on you with Naganadel as an attacker is that it can actually be difficult to stream them. I’ve seen people playing Naganadel in decks with no forms of acceleration for Naganadel (beyond “Charging Up”) talking about streaming it as an attacker in matchups, but this doesn’t work out too well as you need multiple turns to power Naganadel up.
It is an okay attacker in decks that facilitate it though. Decks playing Beast Ring, Double Colorless Energy, or Counter Energy are better equipped to stream Naganadel, since they can power them up in one turn.
The other big thing with Naganadel is that its Turning Point attack jumps to 160 damage when you have exactly three prize cards remaining. This attack is a little situational since many games will have you end up on even prizes and skip from four to two, not allowing you take full advantage of Turning Point. With that said, it’s still a valuable asset, as it can swing for a big knockout and take down a GX Pokémon or one of those higher HP non-GX Pokémon for you.
If you’re skipping from four to two prizes and don’t get access to the attack’s damage boost you’re probably in a favorable position anyway. Staying on even prizes has generally been viewed as preferable to going to odd prizes, and as long as your opponent has GX Pokémon in play, you will be one GX knockout away from winning the game once you go down to two prizes. Against non-GX decks, you will always go down to three prizes allowing you to get the 160 damage Turning Point, which will be able to OHKO most non-GX Pokémon.
Where I think Naganadel really shines, however, is as the engine for a deck. It is able to accelerate any Energy type to itself, allowing you to use Naganadel’s “Charging Up” to put Energy in play that can be used to power up attackers of any type.
Once you have the Energy accelerated to Naganadel, any Energy transfer effect can be used to move the Energy to another Pokémon. This includes item cards such as Energy Switch and Multi-Switch, as well as Pokémon with Abilities that can move Energy, such as Quagsire from Dragon Majesty and Lunala GX.
My personal favorite is Energy Switch. While Multi Switch has the versatility to move Special Energy, such as any Double Colorless or Counter Energy you might play, I think Energy Switch is better in Naganadel decks as it allows you to move Energy to your benched Pokémon, which can allow you to preemptively setup a future attacker when you have the Energy Switch in hand.
When deckbuilding with Naganadel, you can actually play multiple Energy types in the same deck to tech against potential bad matchups. You could go as low as playing only a single copy of an alternate Energy type just for a specific matchup, and since Naganadel accelerates from the discard pile, you can keep bringing that one Energy card back again and again. If you do go the route of playing 1-2 copies of another Energy type, as well as a tech attacker, I think Shuckle from Lost Thunder deserves a lot of consideration. It combos well with Naganadel, even when playing only one Energy type, effectively acting as a search effect to find that alternate Energy type.
I don’t think Shuckle is needed, however, when you only play a single Energy type. Between Ultra Ball, Mysterious Treasure, Sightseer, Acro Bike, and your Pokémon with Energy attached getting knocked out, there are already plenty of ways to get your Energy into the discard pile.
Naganadel as an Energy acceleration engine works well, and it is an engine I think we can expect to see for the next couple of years. It has plenty of partners already and will only gain more potential partners with the release of future sets.
As far as what Poipole to play in your Naganadel decks, I trend towards the Forbidden Light Poipole in most decks as I think poisoning the opponent’s Pokémon and getting damage on the board is more valuable than looking at your prize cards. In decks that play Double Colorless Energy, however, I go with the new Poipole from Lost Thunder, as I can attach a DCE to it and knockout a Natu against Lost March decks.
In the next sections, I will go over my lists for three different Naganadel decks: Blacephalon GX/Naganadel, Donphan/Naganadel, and Raikou/Naganadel. I will also discuss some other Naganadel concepts that I gave some consideration, but ultimately don’t like very much.
Blacephalon GX / Naganadel
This should be by far the most popular Naganadel deck at the beginning of this format and it has a good chance of remaining so throughout the entirety of the format. I feel as though this deck kind of slips into the role that Rayquaza GX/Vikavolt occupied last format of an overpowering OHKO GX deck. I think this is superior to VikaRay because of its increased speed and the ease of being able to setup a deck built around a Basic and Stage 1’s rather than a deck built around getting a Stage 2 Pokémon into play.
The deck is a very straightforward and linear. You try to use Burst GX to start the game to take a quick prize. From there, you setup multiple Naganadel to accelerate Energy from your discard pile which you use to send to the Lost Zone to power up the damage output from Blacephalon GX’s Mind Blown attack. Then when your opponent goes down to four or three prize cards you use Beast Ring to accelerate even more Energy into play which you then send to the Lost Zone with Mind Blown to take big OHKO’s with Blacephalon GX.
Most of the skill with the deck comes down to choosing where to take the Energy from to send to the Lost Zone. To figure out where to take Energy off of for Mind Blown you need to consider what your opponent can do on their next turn and what you may want to do on your next turn.
For example, if you want to attack with Naganadel during your next turn because you are going to down to three prizes remaining, thus giving you the attack boost, you may want to leave an Energy on Naganadel so you can power it up with “Charging Up” and a manual attachment. However, if your opponent will go down to four or three prize cards and you have Beast Ring in hand, you may choose to take all of your Energy off Naganadel as you will be able to power it up fully during your next turn with Beast Ring and a “Charging Up”.
In a lot of situations, I like leaving one Energy attached to the active, and one attached to a benched Blacephalon GX. A common trap I found myself falling into when I first started playing the deck was discarding all Energy off of the active Blacephalon GX if it was damaged and I thought it would get knocked out. What could then happen was my opponent could use Guzma and knockout my benched Blacephalon GX, and then if I wasn’t on a Beast Ring turn, I may have been shutout of powering up a Blacephalon GX to attack with Mind Blown on my next turn.
For these types of decisions you just need to look at what your opponent can do. If your opponent is completely unable to OHKO an undamaged Blacephalon GX, then the optimal play may be taking all the Energy off the active since you aren’t going to be in danger of losing your benched Blacephalon GX to a knockout, and thus will be able to continue attacking no matter what.
This deck finished second at Champions League Tokyo. I think Misaki Miyomoto’s list from that event was very well made and close to the perfect card counts. In the list I’ve been playing I am only three cards off from his initial list.
I swapped out a Tapu Lele GX for a Marshadow SLG, and then I cut Kiawe and Plumeria from the list in favor of two more Guzma.
I like the Marshadow over the second Tapu Lele GX as it gives you a way to disrupt your opponent’s hand. Putting your opponent down to a low hand size against a deck that is this quick and aggressive can lead to some easy wins. You hop out to a lead, and with their diminished resources you’re able to snowball into a prize lead they can’t come back from. It’s also good for giving you an out for additional draw in case you whiff an Energy, and it also gives you more draw on your Beast Ring turn(s).
I’m not a big fan of Kiawe in the deck as you typically will want to be using Burst GX on your first turn of the game if possible. This gets you a quick prize and a little more than a quarter of the time it will even let you accelerate an Energy to one of your Pokémon.
Even going first, when Burst GX won’t be an option, I would rather use Lillie, Cynthia, or Sightseer as those will draw me more cards and make it easier for me to get more Naganadel into play quickly.
Burst GX gets you onto odd prize cards, which means if you take a GX knockout right after that, you will be down to three prizes already, which lets you use Turning Point with Naganadel for the full 160 damage.
To get your best use out of Naganadel’s Turning Point, you will typically want Choice Band or Beast Energy attached to it so you can hit for 190 damage to OHKO a lot of the GX Pokémon that see play. Tapu Lele GX often finds its way onto players’ benches and can be a good target for this.
The last cut I made from his list was Plumeria. In the games I played with Plumeria I didn’t really use it too much. It was okay some of the time as a disruption option, but most of the time I was just discarding it with Ultra Ball or Sightseer as it wasn’t too useful.
It acts as a soft tech against Sceptile CES, but it won’t always be enough to overcome Sceptile, and you can still lose to Alolan Exeggutor anyhow because of its non-GX prize trade, so it’s not a matchup I’m too comfortable teching against.
In place of these cards I added two Guzma, and my mind was blown that there weren’t already four in this deck. When playing an aggressive deck like this I want to try to end the game as quickly as possible, as well as do what I can to prevent or slow my opponent in mounting a response to my aggressiveness so I can snowball into an insurmountable lead. Guzma helps you achieve this, being able to drag up GX Pokémon for two prize knockouts, which can expedite your way to the end of the game, and it can also be used to take knockouts on potential threats your opponent is setting up, slowing down their setup. By having a maximum count of Guzma, you are better able to find it in these situations to push these advantages for the deck.
Blacephalon is terrific against GX heavy decks as you are able to easily OHKO them very early in the game and continue to do so for the entirety of the game. Games against GX heavy decks can often end in a few turns.
Where Blacephalon GX struggles is against non-GX decks. I’ve found most of the non-GX decks in the format to be unfavorable, as they simply win the matchup based on the favorable prize trade. Alolan Exeggutor and Granbull, in particular, are very tough to beat, while Lost March is a little easier as you can actually OHKO their attackers with Naganadel.
Against Alolan Exeggutor and Granbull you can still win off of pure aggression. If you get off to a big enough lead, that lead can become insurmountable. In both of these matchups, Guzma is key. Against Alolan Exeggutor, you will want to hunt down the Sceptile lines, while against Granbull you want to hunt down the Magcargo.
Against Alolan Exeggutor, when Sceptile is in play, you can’t damage their Pokémon with Grass Energy attached, so this matchup becomes very difficult to win once Sceptile gets down. When playing this matchup in tournaments it’s important to remember that Sceptile only prevents damage, so you can still Confuse and Burn an opposing Alolan Exeggutor that has Grass Energy attached with Sceptile in play as a means of getting damage on them. It’s not a great option, but it’s an option and sometimes it will pull off a miracle.
In the Granbull matchup, taking out the Magcargo has proven to be the most effective strategy for pretty much every deck I’ve tested. Once they don’t have a Magcargo in play, it becomes very difficult for them to stream not having cards in hand while having everything they need to attack as they no longer can search out the card they need to complete the combo to make this happen.
Water decks also can serve as a counter to Blacephalon GX, but if they’re slow to setup between Burst GX and a Mind Blown on a GX Pokémon, you can quickly get down to three prize cards remaining, and once you’re that far ahead they may be too far behind to catch up. I do think the Lapras GX/Volcanion Prism Star/Quagsire deck, when piloted correctly, is just a bad matchup, however that deck doesn’t appear to be too popular at the moment.
I think this deck will have a place in the meta for the entirety of the format as a counter to GX heavy decks. I think we will see some circling between non-GX decks and then tankier GX decks as we play in this format, and when things are more shifted towards the tankier GX decks Blacephalon GX will be better positioned.
Rayquaza GX / Naganadel
While I don’t have a decklist that I like enough to share for this deck, I felt it’s worth mentioning right after talking about Blacephalon GX. This deck is similar to Blacephalon GX/Naganadel GX, but it’s less consistent, has a tougher time hitting the larger damage numbers, and feels like a worse deck all around.
In Pokémon, we sometimes get decks like these which I like to think of as sister decks. These are decks that are trying to do the same thing. When evaluating these, usually one of these decks just does the thing they’re trying to accomplish better, and when that’s the case, that’s the deck to play.
Sometimes these decks have some little quirks that make them better in certain metagames relative to the other, but I don’t think this is one of these cases; I think Blacephalon GX outclasses the Rayquaza GX variant and is going to be better in most metagames.
Burst GX allows Blacephalon GX to start taking prizes on turn one of the game, making it a faster deck than the Rayquaza variant. The Rayquaza variant can take knockouts on turn one as well, but it is very inconsistent in doing so.
Beyond being less consistent and slower than the Blacephalon variant, the Rayquaza variant is also typed poorly for the new meta. With the rise of Fairy Pokémon in Lost Thunder and Granbull, the new Gardevoir, and the Fairy Alolan Ninetales GX generating hype there will be lots of Fairy Pokémon in the meta, making it a tough slog to beat these decks with Rayquaza GX.
I’m not even sure that this is a better deck than VikaRay. While VikaRay is a tad bit slower in tempo, it is much better at powering up non-GX Pokémon such as Shining Lugia and Dhelmise, which can help give it better matchups against the non-GX decks in the format.
I don’t think this deck is very good and would recommend sticking to the Blacephalon GX variant if you want to play an OHKO Naganadel deck.
Donphan / Naganadel
This has been one of my personal favorite decks in the new format and one I wanted to build as soon as I read the translations for Donphan. We’ve seen these types of “Sturdy” Abilities in the Pokémon TCG before, but I think Donphan has one of the more viable attacks for a Pokémon with this type of Ability.
Its “Sturdy” Ability makes it so that if Donphan has full HP and would be knocked out by an attack, it isn’t knocked out and instead has 10 HP remaining. This means that Donphan will stay in play for two turns, allowing you to get two attacks off with it.
Donphan’s Rolling Spin attack does 70 damage and an additional 70 more damage bringing it up to 140 during your next turn. Both of these are great damage numbers. As Donphan is Fighting type, we play Diancie Prism Star to boost our attack damage, which turns this into 90 damage and 160 damage, and that goes up to 120 and 190 damage with Choice Band, and then we get a little more damage from Shrine of Punishment.
Rolling Spin has a three Energy cost, costing [F][C][C], so we play Naganadel and Energy Switch to power it up in one turn. You use “Charging Up” to put an Energy onto Naganadel and move it over to Donphan with Energy Switch, then if you have a Double Colorless Energy you can power up your Donphan or Lycanroc GX in one turn.
As we’re a Fighting deck, we, of course, play a baby Buzzwole. When your opponent goes down to four prize cards, you can do 120 damage with it, which is 140 damage with Diancie in play, and then up to 170 with a Choice Band and 180 with Shrine of Punishment damage.
One weird quirk of Donphan is that you don’t want to play Guzma with it, as that will reset the effect of Rolling Spin and set you back to only doing 70 damage with your attack. I settled on playing Counter Catcher as my gust effect. I reasoned that if I’m ahead in the game, needing a gust effect probably isn’t super important, and then if I’m behind, it would be better to have the guaranteed effect than having to rely on flipping heads on Pokémon Catcher.
Without Guzma in the deck, you do have to be a little more careful with what you bench. If your Diancie Prism Star is gusted up, you can attach a Double Colorless Energy to retreat it. If Donphan gets gusted up, you can potentially just move Energy to it and attack with it.
Don’t bench more Donphan than what you will need to finish out a game, or at least not more than you have resources to power up. It’s better to use Sightseer to discard additional lines that you won’t need.
In addition to Counter Catcher, we do have a more pro-active approach to gust effects, and that is Lycanroc GX with its “Bloodthirsty Eyes” Ability. You have two ways to get into Lycanroc GX, and that’s the lone copy of Rockruff and Ditto Prism Star, giving you a pseudo 2-1 Lycanroc GX line. If Lycanroc GX gets knocked out, you can even get into it a second time if needed.
Lycanroc GX also gives you a powerful OHKO option with its Dangerous Rogue GX attack. This is often the attack that I use to end games with this deck. Claw Slash is also very solid against non-GX decks, hitting for 130 damage with Diancie Prism Star in play, which will OHKO a lot of them while Lycanroc GX usually won’t be OHKO’d in return.
Marshadow is my only draw out from Ultra Ball. I don’t play two, as I have a fairly robust Supporter count already, and I don’t want to have to rely on playing Marshadow every game as it’s an easy prize for an opponent to pick off. The goal of this deck is for it to be annoyingly hard and slow for the opponent to take prize cards.
The rest of the card choices I think are fairly straightforward. I have a 4 Cynthia/3 Lillie/4 Sightseer Supporter draw engine. I think these are the three best draw Supporters in Standard at the moment. Sightseer is great in a deck like this, getting rid of extraneous Pokémon for you, as well as getting Energy into the discard pile for Naganadel to accelerate.
I have 4 Ultra Ball/2 Nest Ball/2 Great Ball for my search engine. Ultra Ball is great for getting Energy into the discard pile. I like having two Nest Ball as it guarantees my Basic Pokémon during my setup. Playing Great Ball is always an uneasy experience, but we have so many Pokémon in this deck that we usually find something useful that we can grab from it.
The general progression you will take in a game is to start by attacking with Donphan until your opponent goes to four prizes, at which point you go to Buzzwole to take advantage of its boosted damage. After that, you want to use Naganadel when you have three prizes remaining for a big OHKO if possible (it’s also fine to keep attacking with Donphan), and then Lycanroc GX is usually good for closing out a game with Dangerous Rogue GX. Not every game plays out like this; sometimes you use Dangerous Rogue GX early to clear out a threat, for example, but this is the progression you will take in a game to maximize the power of your cards.
The deck tends to be very strong against GX focused decks, as you will be getting a combined 210 damage from Donphan’s attacks (before modifiers) before it goes down. This allows Donphan to easily trade one for two with GX decks. It also helps that Zoroark GX is weak to Fighting, allowing you to take advantage of weakness knockouts against that. In addition to Zoroark GX, there are also new Lightning decks based around Zeraora GX which you will also hit for weakness.
I’ve also found non-GX decks to be favorable matchups, as you can take OHKO’s on them while they will always need 2HKO’s. Worst case for you is that you both are taking 2HKO’s on each other. I’ve found in the games I’ve played against Granbull, BuzzGarb, and Lost March, I typically win the games with this deck.
One little point of minutia against Lost March is that Jumpluff is resistant to Fighting so you will need to have Diancie Prism Star in play if you hope to take a OHKO with a non-boosted Rolling Spin on a Jumpluff.
The one non-GX deck which you will typically lose against is Alolan Exeggutor, and this is primarily because of Sceptile. When they get Sceptile into play they will be preventing your Ultra Beast from being able to do damage, which would prevent Buzzwole from taking a knockout during the three-prize turn and prevent Naganadel from taking a knockout when you’re down to three prizes. This shuts off your normal progression of Pokémon, but it is still possible to win the game by attacking purely with Donphan and then closing things out with Lycanroc GX.
The other set of decks you will struggle against are spread decks, in particular, the Tapu Koko/Seviper deck and the Spell Tag Malamar deck. These decks are tough to beat as they will easily knockout your Donphan lines turn after turn once they break its “Sturdy” Ability by getting damage counters on Donphan.
Lone Tapu Koko in random decks aren’t too worrisome. You will naturally stagger your benching a little bit, so it’s unlikely to spread against your entire late game field. It’s also Fighting weak and this is a Fighting deck, so Tapu Koko goes down very easily against this deck.
The last deck is Raikou/Naganadel, a deck built around taking OHKO’s with Raikou from Lost Thunder.
Raikou’s Lost Voltage attack costs [L][C] and does 30 damage, plus 90 more damage if you have a Lightning Energy in the Lost Zone. To trigger the effect for boosted damage on Lost Voltage we put a Lightning Energy into the Lost Zone with Lost Blender. We play four copies of Lost Blender so that we can find it quickly. With seven Lightning Energy, you typically will have one in hand alongside your Lost Blender.
Volkner is an option to guarantee the Lightning + Lost Blender combo, but without Tapu Lele GX in a deck aiming to take advantage of a non-GX prize trade it isn’t searchable, so I don’t think it’s worth playing.
Raikou takes two attachments to attack, but we actually have multiple ways to powering up Raikou to attack. You have the Naganadel + Energy Switch combo. When you’re behind on prizes you can use Counter Energy to fulfill the attack cost. Then when you have Thunder Mountain in play, you can attack for a single Lightning Energy.
The damage output of Lost Voltage is great. You’re doing a base damage of 120 damage, which goes to 150 damage with Choice Band. You then play Electropower to boost that damage output further. Electropower is essentially a triple PlusPower for Lightning Pokémon. With one Electropower you can get up to 180 damage already, which OHKO’s something like Blacephalon GX. Two Electropower can get you up to 210 damage, which OHKO’s Zoroark GX.
I chose not to play Shrine of Punishment in this deck, as I find it already able to hit relevant damager numbers with Electropower, and playing Aether Paradise Conservation Area allows your Raikou to take two hits to be knocked out against a lot of decks.
You do need to find Electropower to boost your damage output, and sometimes you need to hit two in a turn if you need to knockout a Zoroark GX or Lycanroc GX, for example. To find these resources, we play Zebstrika for its “Sprint” Ability, which lets us see lots of cards during our turn to find these Electropower. It also combos well with Naganadel’s Ability, discarding Lightning Energy that you can bring back with “Charging Up”.
I have a pseudo-2-2 line of it in the deck, replacing a copy of Blitzle with Ditto Prism Star so that you have the option to flex the Ditto into a Naganadel line if needed.
The deck is fairly straight forward. You just aim to power up Raikou and then take OHKO’s with it by using Electropower and Choice Band to boost your damage output. You have Naganadel as a potential big attacking option when you go down to three prize cards remaining. It can be a little rough to power up Naganadel, as you will need multiple turns of “Charging Up”, but if you are behind in prizes, you can use Counter Energy to power it up in one turn.
The one alternate attacker I have in the deck is Tapu Koko GX. It works really well with Naganadel, as you can use Charging Up to get some Energy into play, and then play Tapu Koko GX onto your bench and use its “Aero Trail” Ability to move Energy to it to power it up to attack. You can take a big OHKO against decks that get a lot of Energy into play with Tapu Koko’s GX’s Tapu Thunder GX, and then Sky-High Claws is solid for 2HKO’s on GX’s, or OHKO’s on non-GX’s, but can also OHKO GX’s with Electropower.
One of the key concerns with using this deck is that your Electropower is a finite resource, so properly utilizing Tapu Koko GX to take out non-GX’s that it can OHKO with Sky-High Claws, as well as trying to sneak in an OHKO with its GX attack are key for being able to ration Electropower to take the knockouts you need in a game.
I think this deck is fairly solid and can compete well with anything. Its primarily concern is its consistency. Because of its nature as an OHKO, non-GX deck, it really can compete with everything, with its greatest battle being consistency in getting setup, getting the Lightning Energy in the Lost Zone, and then streaming attackers for the rest of the game.
This is actually a gimped version of what I think will be a better deck in the future. Some cards that help build up Raikou were omitted from Lost Thunder and will presumably be released in our next set.
The first of these cards is Tapu Koko Prism Star, which accelerates two Lightning Energy from the discard pile to two of your benched Pokémon, and then you put it into the Lost Zone. Once this comes out, there won’t be a need to play Naganadel in the deck, so this should open up three more deck slots.
Opening up three slots in the deck is great, as there is another unreleased card called Electrocharger which will greatly improve the deck. Electrocharger is an Item card that has you flip two coins, and for each head you put an Electropower from your discard pile into your hand. On average this will net you one Electropower. This changes the deck from being able to play four Electropower into a game to more around seven or eight on average, increasing both the consistency that you get OHKO’s and the resource strain on getting those knockouts.
Other Naganadel Concepts
Here are some of the other Naganadel concepts that I didn’t write about in this article that players may be considering.
- Sceptile CES – Sceptile’s Powerful Storm attack does 20 damage times the amount of Grass Energy attached to all of your Pokémon. I tried this, and the damage doesn’t scale quick enough, even with Beast Ring, to make this attack good enough to build a deck around. I’m not a big fan of decks that need to setup both Stage 1 and Stage 2 lines, but thanks to Grovyle’s “Sunshine Grace” Ability, which lets you search out a Grass Pokémon from your deck, it’s consistent in getting out your Sceptile lines.
- Lapras GX/Volcanion Prism Star/Quagsire – This deck would use Naganadel to bring Energy back into play, and then use Quagsire to move them up to the Pokémon you want to attack with. I don’t think this is worth building a Naganadel deck around as the deck already has great Energy acceleration in Aqua Patch, so using Aqua Patch with Exp. Share is plenty effective in executing this strategy, so there is not too much of a point in playing Naganadel as well. I do think Naganadel is a decent tech option in the deck though. You can play a Ditto Prism Star and play a single copy of Naganadel as an option to evolve into from the Ditto.
- Shining Genesect – I think this could be a terrific tech option in Naganadel decks if you have trouble with some Grass weak Pokémon, whether it be Lapras GX or Lycanroc GX. To utilize it effectively as a tech Pokémon you would want to play Double Colorless Energy, but with Shining Genesect you can use its “Energy Reload” Ability to move the Grass Energy to it off of Naganadel, and then if you have a Choice Band you can do 200 damage against Grass weak Pokémon. There also is potential to build a full on Shining Genesect deck with Naganadel and Venusaur SLG, but I think a deck dependent on setting up a Stage 1 and a Stage 2 would be too inconsistent to play.
Both Ditto Prism Star and Naganadel are two cards from Lost Thunder that really open up the deckbuilding possibilities in the Standard format. Both of these cards are must buys from the new set and I expect we will see both of these cards being used in a ton of different decks over the next two years.