This being my second foray into reviewing Pokémon starter decks, the first being here (link). The nationals have been played and it shaped up to be a rather interesting time. Having quite the variety of decks and tactics, I don’t remember being that big a thing when we were in our 4th generation: Sinnoh. Again, I shall endeavour to review the two latest starter decks in the Burning Shadows expansion featuring: Alolan Ninetails and Lycanroc.
The review process is breaking down what are the most efficient energy to damage and effects being top priority, deck variety and consistency, and whether or not it has a stand out Pokémon that deserves to be in a deck. With the end result being which is probably going to be the more viable competitive deck if you weren’t buying booster packs to start your deck. One change to the formula in the review process is that the decks will be highlighted before comparing directly, as the previous review became too muddied in comparison for the end to be clear.
Alolan Ninetales Luminous Frost Starter Deck:
With its low Energy cost moves, Luminous Frost is a deck that borderlines good on one front and terrible on another. Its only stage 2 Pokémon Kingdra is almost OP in some sense, having 140HP and 2X Weakness to Grass. It’s got two attacks that are 1 Water energy cost Brine 90 damage to any Pokémon with a damage counter (no Weakness /Resistance) and Tornado Shot for 90 damage (discard 1 Water Energy and deal 30 damage to 1 Benched Pokémon). It’s somewhat insane with its pre-evolutions Horsea and Seadra both requiring 1 Water energy for 10 and 30 damage, respectively, with Water Arrow each. Sweetening the deal with a 1 Energy Retreat Cost. But this is where the downsides start coming, Alolan Sandslash and Ninetales are weird Pokémon to judge powerwise. Their Weakness being Steel, it’s difficult to find a hard counter for them. But sharing a somewhat low 110HP and 3 Energy cost (1 Water, 2 Colourless) dealing 50 (switches place with a Benched Pokémon) and 80 respectively. Their abilities only shine in somewhat unique places.
Alolan Sandslash Slush Rush ability is a nice support ability that doesn’t really shine out, drawing an extra attack before attacking. Alolan Ninetales though is a very hard counter that is almost eyebrow raising. Its ability Luminous Barrier nulls anything a Pokémon-GX and Pokémon-EX can do to Ninetales. A great Pokémon to have in a Water deck, considering the Metagross-GX deck has had a successful run in the meta along with few other GX/EX decks. Judging both of these Pokémon in terms of power is difficult in that regard, being potentially great cards to have as part of a separate deck. But in this deck, certain limitations in the variety of cards and Pokémon lead to it not truly shine.
Simipour and Simisear are somewhat odd picks that are polar opposites in terms of matching. Powerwise they sit above the 20 damage to 1 Energy baseline with the attack effects being move a Water Energy to a Benched Pokémon, and attach a Fire Energy from discard pile to Benched Pokémon, respectively. Simipour makes sense, but both Simisear and Heatmor are odd choices for a Water Energy primary deck. Heatmor’s Searing Flame attack deals 60 and burns the opponent's active Pokémon with a 3 Energy cost (1 Fire, 2 Colourless). Its other Basic Pokémon are Bouffalant and Bruxish. Bouffalant is a solid defensive Pokémon with double Colourless cost Bouffant Head, dealing 30 damage and takes 30 less damage taken (after Weakness /Resistance). Knock Over deals 80 with a 3 Colourless Energy, which may discard any Stadium in play. Lacking anything to stand out, Bruxish follows in line with Kingdra. Gnash Teeth with 1 Water Energy makes opponent’s Active Pokémon confused. Synchronoise deals 60 damage with a 3 Energy cost (1 Water, 2 Colourless). Whilst meeting the 20 damage to 1 ratio, its effects is what makes this a standout. Dealing 20 damage to each of your opponent’s Benched Pokémon with same type as Active Pokémon (no Weakness /Resistance). Bruxish can become an early devastating force to be reckoned with if you start first with a Double Colourless. If Alolan Sandslash is present, the chance is increased with the extra card drawn. On top of the Hau support cards, it’s possible to a devastating lead. However, consistency is limited from here on out.
Its staple and standout Trainer cards include: Professor Kukui (Supporter: draw 2 cards and deal 20+ damage before Weakness /Resistance), Hau (Supporter: draw 3 cards), Lana (Supporter: Heal 50 damage for each Pokémon with any Water Energy Cards), Energy Retrieval (Item: put 2 basic Energy cards from discard to hand), Rescue Stretcher (Item: Put 1 Pokémon from discard to hand or shuffle 3 Pokemon from discard to deck), Nest Ball (Item: Search your deck for a basic Pokémon). Whilst cards like Wishful Baton (Item: If active Pokémon is knocked out, move 3 basic energy cards onto Benched Pokémon) and Big Malasada (Item: Heal 20 damage and remove a Special Condition off Active Pokémon) are solid standard picks. They lack the fundamental impact a solid themed deck can have. Whilst the Alolan forms would benefit from those picks, compared to other trainer cards like Bodybuilding Dumbbells (Item: the Stage 1 Pokémon this card is attached to gets +40 HP) and Choice Band (Item: deal 30 more damage to your opponent's Active Pokémon-GX/EX) or extra Double Colourless Energy cards to bolster the time till damage for both Alolan forms, especially with Alolan Ninetales and its Luminous Barrier ability.
Overall, featuring 15 Basic Pokémon it’ll be tough to not draw a solid hand (coupled with the Hau and Nest Balls). The only real drawback in this deck is the existence of Fire types, consuming 6 Energy and 5 Pokémon Cards. They can weaken an opening hand’s ability to perform. But what this deck lacks is some hard hitters, as none of them peak the 100HP barrier which other decks can reach, and when the majority of Pokémon here lack the needed HP to bounce back, Lana won’t be a saving grace for most situations. However, that’s not to say this isn’t a solid deck. The low energy cost and ability to start hitting hard with Kingdra is the standout Pokémon this deck has. Bolstering this deck to hit even harder would need a Margikarp/Gyarados setup or Alolan Ninetales-GX for some showstopping action. Is this a recommended deck? For beginners and as a starter deck, yes, this has recommendation. But if you have a deck already, there isn’t enough cards to recommend if you don’t have them already due to the low duplicate count. The guaranteed Kingdra or Alolan Sandslash/Ninetales is great for that extra versatility. But all in all this is a deck that says I’m ready for a battle.