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.
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