Summer in the American southeast is… well, miserable. Sure, we’re slowly approaching autumn (and the dreaded back-to-school season), but there are still long stretches of midday where my family is all but driven inside by the relentless heat. As much as I love video games, there are times when I feel we should step away from our respective screens, and one of our favorite indoor analog activities is the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Thankfully, Burning Shadows, the latest Sun & Moon expansion, arrived just in time to help us beat the proverbial heat.
At the core of this new expansion is, of course, two new theme decks—each bundled with the requisite play mat, coin, and counters, and each constructed around a new Alolan Pokémon. First up is Rock Steady, a Fighting/Psychic deck built around the Midday Form of newcomer Lycanroc. It’s a pretty straight-ahead construction that uses the three Rs: Basics Rockruff, Riolu, and Rhyhorn.
While plucky and relatively resilient in their original forms, your ultimate goal is to evolve them into true heavy-hitters Lycanroc, Lucario, and Rhyperior using Trainer cards like Hau, Professor Kukui, and Brooklet Hill to facilitate some much-needed deck management. And while Lycanroc gets top billing, it’s Lucario’s Stance ability and Rhyperior’s Toppling Wind—which block attacks for a turn or allows you to discard the top three cards from your opponent’s deck, respectively—that give this deck a little added strategic depth.
Rock Steady is cast against the Water/Fire deck Luminous Frost featuring Alolan Ninetales. The exclusive “cracked ice” Holofoil Ninetales is a beautiful card with a nice ability of its own: Luminous Barrier, which effectively prevents opponent GX or EX Pokémon from damaging it.Ninetales is backed up by Alolan Sandslash, whose Slush Rush ability lets you draw an extra card each round before attacking. Again, it’s not a super complex setup, but it’s fun and effective, which makes it perfect for newer players.
After getting used to these new decks, the kids and I opened up a few Burning Shadows booster packs, and we managed to strike gold! My son snatched up a Lycanroc GX—its Bloodthirsty Eyes ability lets you switch out an opponent’s active Pokémon with one on their bench—which he anxiously worked into Rock Steady. My daughter, though, was more interested in the Darkrai GX; using Restoration, you can easily cycle it out of your discard pile and onto your bench along with a Dark energy!
With more than 140 new cards in this expansion, there’s plenty to get excited about. Of course, for me, the big find was multiple Weakness Policy Trainer cards. You can attach it to a pocket monster to cancel out his weakness, which has saved my bacon on numerous occasions.
We were also fortunate enough to score a pair of the new Island Guardian Tins. Each boasts Tapu Koku GX or Tapu Bulu GX as well as four additional boosters (from various expansions). Like all GX Pokémon, these include a massively damaging GX ability: Tapu Thunder GX and Tapu Wilderness GX. The catch is that you can only use a single GX attack for the entire game and, if your GX monster is knocked out, your opponent is rewarded with two prize cards.
We haven’t exactly found a good place to put these Electric and Grass-type Guardians in any of our regular decks, but I’m sure we’ll make good use of them. Plus, like all the Pokémon TCG tins, these things make the perfect gift for the young fan in your life. Especially one that’s, say, presently down with the new school year blues.
Review materials provided by: The Pokémon Company International