Hello CFB! August has historically been an exciting month in the Pokemon TCG world and 2021 is no exception. First off, we had the Players Cup IV Global Finals take place, along with the 25th Pokemon Anniversary Players Cup Invitational tournament. Next, Evolving Skies has just been released and it features a lot of exciting new cards and mechanics such as brand-new Rapid and Single Strike, powerful Pokemon VMAX, along with cool Supporters such as Raihan. Secondly, I had to come back and add this piece of news to my article: a brand-new Pokemon TCG online client has been announced: Pokemon TCG Live. As I’m writing this, the only information we currently have is that booster packs from the new set releasing in November, Fusion Strike, will contain code cards for it, thus we can expect to see more information hopefully within the next month.
With no Players Cup V or Autumn Team Challenge announcements so far, you had to expect something was up. I never would’ve imagined it would be a whole new client though, seeing how it’s been 10 years since PTCGO’s release, and it has never received much more than visual updates in all this time.
Saying goodbye to PTCGO right as a new season begins and the Sun & Moon-era ends feels very fitting, as I’m sure many people will agree that the state of the game was far from its best and the client didn’t help with that at all. When the Sun & Moon-era of the TCG began and Pokemon-GX were introduced into the game, they started out as being good and well-balanced, starting off with Decidueye-GX and Lapras-GX making the biggest impacts, leading into incredible cards such as Zoroark-GX, Gardevoir-GX and ending with Blacephalon-GX and Rayquaza-GX. Power creep is inevitable, always, but then came Worlds 2018 and the first TAG TEAM Pokemon was revealed: Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. Three-Prize Pokemon for the first time ever in the Pokemon TCG, high risk versus high reward cards but as more and more were released, they soon became too powerful for most other Pokemon to catch up and when Zoroark-GX rotated out right before Worlds 2019, is when we hit the peak of the three-Prize Pokemon.
Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate TAG TEAMs as I had tremendous success with them. Pikachu & Zekrom-GX single-handedly handed me two travel awards to two Internationals, it also helped me secure my day two 2019 Worlds invite. Reshiram & Charizard-GX won me a Regional on release date, Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX led me to two Top 8s at Regionals and POG 2020, and Trevenant & Dusknoir-GX secured my first-ever Top 8 at an Expanded event (Milotic was banned later). I love TAG TEAM, but I’m also incredibly glad they will soon be gone from Standard.
Overall, I think three-Prize Poekamon are a mistake, even though their story started out well, I’m sure the overall sentiment towards them is that we are all tired of using them and playing against them. Having said that, I wanted to give them a respectful goodbye by talking about the top TAG TEAM Pokemon and why they were so incredibly good and broken.
Super close to making the top five, this TAG TEAM got released in the same set as Reshiram & Charizard-GX and Welder, whilst Kiawe was still legal. You had to be crazy to play a Fire-weak Pokemon worth three Prizes at the time. However, as months went by it got new creative uses in solo decks and as an integral part of stall decks to deny Energy. It saw no play at Worlds 2019, but once Sword & Shield came out, the card became a huge pain to play against when combined with Zacian V and Zamazenta V. Since then, it has only seemed to become stronger and stronger, gaining Coating Energy to remove Fire Weakness and not even needing it as of late, as Ice Rider has all but killed Welder-based decks entirely. Lucario & Melmetal-GX has never been the best deck in the format, nor has the TAG TEAM Pokemon on its own been the absolute focus of the deck, but its Full Metal Wall GX attack has been a force to be reckoned with for over a year now.
In Expanded, Lucario & Melmetal-GX competes for a spot in decks with Lugia-GX, as one gets rid of Energy and the other removes a Pokemon from play completely. Both have had their fair share of success and I expect Lucario & Melmetal-GX to continue to have a big impact in stall decks in Expanded.
I find it very fitting that a card based on ghost Pokemon has such a lethal effect, with Night Watch taking two cards away from your hand, making it so playing against it is ‘haunting’ to say the least. The card was only available in a promo box and was not quite well distributed if I recall correctly, so it didn’t have a big impact initially. Its obvious inclusion was in Malamar decks, as you could power it up quickly, but there weren’t great cards to pair it with to go along with the hand denial other than a late game Reset Stamp.
However, Expanded was a whole other story. The combination of Milotic from Flashfire with the Energy grace Ability, Ace Trainer, Gengar & Mimikyu-GX and Trevenant & Dusknoir-GX made it, so your opponent essentially got one normal turn total and started out their next turn with a single card in hand plus their topdeck. With how reliant decks are on set up Pokemon in Expanded, such as Shaymin-EX (back when it was legal), Tapu Lele-GX, Dedenne-GX and Crobat V, Alolan Muk’s Power of Alchemy Ability shut them all down and completed the full lockdown trick against them. I was the first one to have success with the deck at Dallas Regionals and I’m confident had some top decks been a tad bit worse for my opponent in Game three of Top 8, I could’ve easily walked away with the whole thing. The deck then went on to dominate the next Expanded Regional, ultimately leading to Milotic getting banned and thus making the deck unplayable.
As of late, it has seen some play in Standard with Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX being released and the combination with Marnie being formidable for hand denial since turn two. However, it’s the huge impact and dominance it had in Expanded that led me to rank this TAG TEAM at a tie for number five and as one of the most broken to be released, even if it’s not as viable anymore.
One of the most formidable Fire-type Pokemon out there, it became dominant from the very first day it was legal for tournament play. There were two Regionals happening on that day and both were won by Reshiram & Charizard-GX. I played the turbo variant, featuring four Kiawe to accelerate Energy on turn one, but the other popular variant was Green’s Reshiram & Charizard-GX.
An unstoppable 300-damage attack, a ton of Fire support in a single set and very few relevant Water Pokemon made it possible for Reshiram & Charizard-GX to become the deck to beat since its release up until Worlds 2019, where it took up a lot of top spots and was even a part of the Masters-winning deck as a partner for Mewtwo & Mew-GX.
Since it became dominant, other more versatile decks popped up that featured it as an option for its great attacks, but it stopped being the focus of the deck. Welder-based Mewtwo & Mew-GX, Blacephalon and just overall versatile Fire toolbox decks always featured at least one or two copies of the card. It could be powered up out of nowhere and start dealing a lot of damage and potentially even donk your opponent. It no longer features in any deck as we are about to hit rotation and its impact in Expanded hasn’t been great at all. However, this card is ranked above the previous two because of how overwhelmingly powerful it became as soon as it came out, as opposed to the previous two TAG TEAMs that got progressively better as newer cards came out.
I can’t count the number of times I read “Pikachu & Zekrom-GX is finally dead” right after every new set got released over the past year, only for it to eventually come back in what seemed an even more dominant fashion than before. Since its showcase at Worlds 2018, it was very evident this would be an amazing card. 240 HP at the time was the highest around and the support that existed for Lightning-types with Thunder Mountain, Zeraora-GX and Electropower bolstered Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks to top tier status as soon as it came out. It dominated the first tournament it was legal in, the Oceania International Championship in 2019 and has continued to see play ever since.
Even after the previous rotation where it lost Thunder Mountain and Electropower, two key pieces of the deck, it continued to dominate thanks to its raw strength and the support of Boltund V, along with how powerful a late game Reset Stamp to one card plus a paralysis from Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX could be to close out games. Eternatus VMAX wasn’t enough to stop its dominance even though it could OHKO the whole deck easily. Neither could Coalossal VMAX or Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX, as the deck adapted to include Mewtwo & Mew-GX to cover its Fighting Weakness. It wasn’t until Chilling Reign and the release of both Calyrex VMAX cards that Pikachu & Zekrom-GX’s two-and-a-half-year reign came to an end in Standard.
However, Expanded still features Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks at the top very consistently, as it still has access to the Lightning-type support in Electropower, Thunder Mountain and even Max Elixir to speed itself up. I expect Pikachu & Zekrom-GX to remain a fan favorite in that format, given how quickly it can dish out damage and how easily it can be powered up in a single turn. The combination of the two-year dominance and the continued relevance in Expanded is what made me rank this card as the third-best TAG TEAM card.
This card always had to be at the top or close to it, seeing how it immediately won the first tournament it was legal to be played in: Worlds 2019. Ever since then, the versatility of Mewtwo & Mew-GX has seen it be paired with pretty much every single type out there. Fire/Welder, Water with Frosmoth, Grass with Rillaboom, Psychic with Malamar, Rotom or solo, Lightning as the focus or as support in Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks and more recently in Darkness toolbox decks featuring other Darkness-type TAG TEAMs, Weavile-GX and Galarian Moltres V.
The card’s versatility is nothing to scoff at and it has been dominant at every level of event whether it was Cups, Regionals, Internationals, Worlds, or the online cup circuit we currently have. There is always a Mewtwo & Mew deck to keep in the back of your mind or always the potential for a Psychic-type of attacker to be powered up out of the blue in all the previously mentioned decks that feature Energy acceleration strategies.
In addition to its impact in Standard, it has also consistently been a top deck in Expanded where it can also utilize attacks from Pokemon-EX along with GX’s. Item lock, sniping, Bench cleanup, are only a few of the attacks that Mewtwo & Mew-GX usually copies to adapt and counter an opponent’s strategy. The versatility and myriad of options that Mewtwo & Mew-GX offers will surely keep it as a top deck and/or card in Expanded and its continued strength in Standard to this day means it’s the second-best TAG TEAM ever in my opinion, only toppled by the number one spot because that one quite literally changes the rules of the game in your favor.
Despite their dominance, no card has ever drawn as much hate as this one, to the point where actual online petitions were forming for Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX to be banned from Standard. Some tournament organizers went ahead and did it since this card’s reign of terror was pretty much only online. When it was first released, it was pretty good but not a hugely dominant force as it is today, as its best partner was Keldeo-GX, a card that essentially slowed the game down. The bonus damage and extra prize card were good, but not good enough to call the card broken, not until Sword & Shield came out at least.
Once Zacian V came out though, everything changed. The deck became incredibly aggressive, and it preyed upon KOing the support Pokemon that everyone is forced to play if they want to keep up with the pace of the metagame. Games against this deck end up lasting four turns total. And what it played against stopped mattering, what mattered was pulling off Altered Creation as soon as possible, turn two if going first or even turn one if you went second. I made the Top 8 a Regional with the less obviously broken ADP / Keldeo-GX deck and then went on an incredible run at POG 2020 which ended in Top 8 against our own Isiah Bradner’s Pikachu & Zekrom-GX deck (another TAG TEAM, go figure). Throughout the whole 2020-2021 season, Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX decks have almost always been the deck to beat, and the deck has been able to easily adapt to new threats such as the Calyrex VMAX cards by playing a combination of attackers in it that adapts to the decks needs against the metagame.
It’s hard to argue against this being the number one most broken TAG TEAM and I’m sure a poll of the community would show an almost 100% vote towards happiness that it will finally be gone, including me. The card also single handedly made any single-Prize Pokemon deck essentially unplayable, as the bonus Prize card received after every KO took away the one advantage that they had, not giving up more than one prize card and thus trading effectively.
In Expanded, the card has seen play as its combos extremely smoothly with Double Dragon Energy, but the abundance of other extremely powerful and broken Expanded strategies has prevented it from being completely dominant. Especially the existence of a direct counter to the GX attack in Pokemon Ranger. Regardless, it will surely still see play in Expanded, but the impact it had since its release in Standard and how it rallied people against it at one point of the season, means this is undoubtedly the most powerful and broken TAG TEAM card ever released.
I’m glad TAG TEAMs are gone and I’m hopeful for the new Pokemon TCG Live app to bolster the online tournament scene to the point where we can all chuck the 2020-2021 Pokemon season as a time where Pokemon certainly wasn’t at its peak, but with a bright future as head into only Pokemon VMAX and V-Union territory. The 2021-2022 season looks set to start off with a bang and it may feature the return of real life Pokemon events down the line which is what we are all hopeful for soon.
Thanks so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this final recap of the 2020-2021 season, and I can’t wait to get the next one started! Until next time.