TAG TEAM Supporters Take Control in the Pokémon TCG: Sun & Moon—Cosmic Eclipse Expansion
By Christopher Schemanske, contributing writer
Every new expansion of the Pokémon TCG brings its own set of changes to the game, but how they achieve those changes can be pretty varied. In rare instances, such as with the recent Sun & Moon—Cosmic Eclipse expansion, the impact comes mostly from the set’s Trainer cards. This time in particular, it’s with the numerous awesome TAG TEAM Supporters. All of these cards have powerful effects to begin with, and they let you do even more if you discard extra cards from your hand when you play them. Some of these TAG TEAM Supporters have been able to bring success to older Pokémon that previously had difficulty breaking out—always a sign of a powerful card! Let’s take a look at some of these incredible TAG TEAM cards and how they’ve affected competitive play.
Two of the most important TAG TEAM Supporters have been Cynthia & Caitlin and Mallow & Lana. Cynthia & Caitlin takes two effects that might be unremarkable on separate Supporter cards and merges them into a truly powerful card. Perhaps its greatest value is actually the ability to get more use from other Supporters in a deck on subsequent turns. A cool example is using Cynthia & Caitlin to grab Faba, which can be useful in multiple copies for specific matchups. But because of how limited deck space is, it just doesn’t work out. Cynthia & Caitlin allows more efficient use of deck space, serving as “extra” copies of those niche Supporters; drawing three cards is enough of a bonus effect (for a lowly single discard) to make it an acceptable use of a turn’s Supporter.
Mallow & Lana has a pretty humdrum base effect, as there are plenty of much easier ways to switch out your Active Pokémon, including the card Switch. The added effect of healing 120 damage is invaluable and irreplaceable to a number of Pokémon-GX decks, though, as it can often erase an opponent’s preceding turn entirely! I think a lot of players weren’t convinced of its worth at the release of Sun & Moon—Cosmic Eclipse, but Mallow & Lana has proven worthy of inclusion in a variety of decks.
Each of these duos has seen play in a lot of different scenarios, but one deck that both of these TAG TEAM Supporters have helped a lot is Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX. While this TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX has seen varying levels of play since its release, the new Trainer cards from Sun & Moon—Cosmic Eclipse have pushed it over the edge into the competitive spotlight:
This deck is a bit slow to start, but with a few Fairy Charms, high HP, and other strategies, it can be virtually impossible to outlast in the later stages of a match. Healing is a key part of the strategy, and previously, it had to dedicate a lot of deck space to Great Potion and similar cards to achieve that goal. With Mallow & Lana achieving more for less, deck space has been freed up, allowing more freedom to add options like Omastar that can improve specific matchups. Cynthia & Caitlin also adds efficiency, and our previous example of re-using Faba shows up here. Ironically, a lot of decks particularly want to use Faba against Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX, but it’s also useful within that deck. Reusing Mallow & Lana can be critical in some matchups, and overall, Cynthia & Caitlin adds an extra dimension to the deck that’s offered it substantial success with Sun & Moon—Cosmic Eclipse.
Another TAG TEAM Supporter that’s been played in a number of decks is Guzma & Hala. Its effect reminds me of some older cards—and some of the other Sun & Moon—Cosmic Eclipse Trainer cards, like Rosa—for its ability to find multiple different cards to set up an entire strategy out of thin air. At its worst, playing a Supporter to search for a Stadium is a bit wasteful, but in some scenarios, it can actually be pretty impactful (particularly in the Expanded format, and I’m excited to see some of the potential there). Searching for a Pokémon Tool and a Special Energy card is the more exciting effect—both of these card types are frequently integral to deck strategy. The particular value of Guzma & Hala is making these cards readily accessible, allowing players to potentially play fewer copies of each card, saving deck space, or even to play a wider variety of them in a single deck to allow for more complex strategies.
Not too many people were thrilled about Guzma & Hala when it was released, but after a bit of time in the Standard format, it’s had the opportunity to affect a number of decks. Certain Mewtwo & Mew-GX variants have used it to readily find cards like Weakness Guard Energy, and even some Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX players have fit it in. One of the newer decks that has made heavy use of it in rising to the forefront of the game is Garchomp & Giratina-GX. The deck hasn’t caught on too heavily yet, but some prominent players have given it a shot over the last few major events. With the success it’s seen, I expect it to be a major feature quite soon. Here’s an example deck list:
Guzma & Hala’s value to this deck is threefold: easy access to both of the Pokémon Tool cards (Karate Belt and Counter Gain can each afford to be one-off copies because of the ease of search offered), the ability to find a Power Plant to put in play as soon as possible, and the mix of Special Energy cards that can enable easy attacking. Guzma & Hala really makes the deck flow far better, and I’d wager that it would not be nearly as competitively viable without the addition.
The deck also enjoys contributions from the other TAG TEAM Supporters mentioned earlier. Mallow & Lana provides the same pinch-hit switch effect with the added ability to heal a damaged Pokémon on demand. This switch effect is particularly valuable in a deck with a lot of slow Pokémon that have a high Retreat Cost. While a single copy isn’t really enough to guarantee availability throughout the game, Cynthia & Caitlin makes another appearance here, allowing the player to reuse Mallow & Lana to prevent a poor Pokémon from getting stuck in the Active spot for too long. Cynthia & Caitlin can also effectively reuse Faba or Lt. Surge’s Strategy, adding dimensions to the deck’s strategy.
Another TAG TEAM Supporter this expansion offers is Bellelba & Brycen-Man, and its effect on the game is totally different. The other TAG TEAM Supporters are largely fit for enabling strategies that were already part of the game, just making them more consistent. But Bellelba & Brycen-Man is now the only Trainer card in the Standard format that discards cards from your opponent’s deck, which opens a new strategy space for decks to consider. While “stall” concepts, which seek to cause an opponent to run out of cards just by denying them the ability to take all of their Prize cards, have been an up-and-down feature of the Standard format for a while, they’ve been slowed by the lack of a way to actively discard cards from an opponent’s deck. In tournament play, where matches are timed, inevitable victory by Prize denial isn’t enough: you also have to win on time. That was hard, but Bellelba & Brycen-Man changed all of that.
One of the decks that Bellelba & Brycen-Man has helped put on the map is the combination of Florges and Lillie’s Poké Doll. Unlike the other two decks I’ve presented, this concept couldn’t have existed prior to Sun & Moon—Cosmic Eclipse, as Lillie’s Poké Doll is pretty much the entire strategy. There are a lot of different directions this list can take, but here’s an example:
The deck’s strategy is pretty simple: always have Lillie’s Poké Doll as your Active “Pokémon,” and make sure nothing can affect your Bench. If it weren’t for the active discard offered by Bellelba & Brycen-Man, this strategy wouldn’t have a chance of winning games in time. It’s a slightly more one-dimensional application than the TAG TEAM Supporters have offered to other decks, but it’s certainly no less important. Bellelba & Brycen-Man’s optional effect is pretty interesting, but it doesn’t usually have much impact on the strategies enabled by the discard. That’s not to say Florges doesn’t find spots to use it, because it certainly can happen, but it isn’t exactly an integral part of the strategy. It is a powerful effect, though, so I look forward to seeing what happens in the future.
The remaining TAG TEAM Supporters haven’t quite managed to break through on a large scale competitively yet. Misty & Lorelei has seen a bit of play in decks using various versions of Keldeo-GX, but the reality is that there aren’t enough decks that benefit from reusing a Water-type Pokémon’s GX attack. It’s a powerful effect, to be sure, but it just hasn’t found an application yet. A lot of players were intrigued by Red & Blue as their plans started incorporating Sun & Moon—Cosmic Eclipse, but that card hasn’t found a home yet, either. Using a Supporter to evolve a Pokémon is too much investment, but it’s a little surprising that its ability to put extra Energy into play hasn’t become more popular yet. Silvally-GX was one oft-speculated partner, but it’s also a card that hasn’t caught fire yet, and Red & Blue remains sidelined. Of these two TAG TEAM Supporters, Red & Blue strikes me as more likely to see competitive success in the future, but only time will tell!
There haven’t been any major events in the Expanded format since Sun & Moon—Cosmic Eclipse arrived, but with a few Expanded Regionals on the horizon, it will be interesting to see what emerges. My initial feeling is that most of these TAG TEAM Supporters will be sidelined for those events—Cynthia & Caitlin, Mallow & Lana, and Red & Blue are simply too slow for the format or outclassed by Expanded-only Item cards with similar effects. Guzma & Hala could enable some crazy combos, as could Misty & Lorelei—imagine back-to-back Towering Splash-GX attacks from Magikarp & Wailord-GX!—and there is definitely exciting potential to explore.
Other than those two cards, Sun & Moon—Cosmic Eclipse’s effects are more likely to be seen through its other Trainer cards: Rosa, Chaotic Swell, and Great Catcher are probably the most likely to make a splash among the older cards. Those three cards have made themselves felt throughout the Standard format, too, as you can see from the inclusions sprinkled throughout the deck lists earlier. Rosa is easily one of my favorite cards ever printed for its broad versatility and balanced restrictions, and Chaotic Swell has one of the most unique effects in the Pokémon TCG’s history, rendering the Stadium spot a relative non-factor.
While some expansions are notable for the Pokémon they feature, Sun & Moon—Cosmic Eclipse’s lasting impact will probably be its Trainer cards, and especially the TAG TEAM Supporters. There’s a lot of unexplored potential out there as we approach the midway point of the 2020 Championship Series—hopefully you’ve been inspired to try out some of these cards in your next Pokémon TCG battle!
For more Pokémon TCG strategy and analysis, be sure to check out Pokemon.com/Strategy.
About the Writer
Christopher Schemanske is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. After a run of Worlds invitations between 2012 and 2018, he now splits time between playing and judging. Outside of the game, he’s at university studying industrial and operations engineering. You can find him at events throughout the Play! Pokémon TCG circuit, as well as on Twitter at @cschemanske.
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