The newest Pokémon Trading Card Game expansion, Sword & Shield: Lost Origin is out now, and promises to shake up the Pokemon TCG, including Gym Leader Challenge. Notably, Lost Origin brings the Lost Zone mechanic back to the TCG, which was first seen in Platinum back in 2009, and briefly seen again in Sun & Moon: Lost Thunder in 2018. As we have with the past few sets, we’ll take a look at some of the highlights from this set that will be coming to GLC — you’ll want to look out for these cards as possible additions to your own list, or as powerful threats your opponents may be playing themselves!
While Grass is one of the strongest types in GLC, it has always struggled with draw power on-board. The best draw support Pokémon that Grass currently has access to is Sawsbuck which draws exactly one (1) card per turn. With Lost Origin, we’ll be seeing Beautifly and its Elated Draw ability provide some needed support to Grass-type trainers. While it is a Stage 2 Pokemon, Grass is known for its ability to easily find Pokemon thanks to cards like Grotle, Grovyle, and Turffield Stadium which can search the deck every turn. If you’re a Grass player and hate to see a late-game N or Roxanne from your opponent, consider Beautifly to draw you out of these tough spots!
Shiftry is the first card we’ll be looking at that interacts with the Lost Zone, and it does so in spectacular fashion. It has one of the most efficient attacks you could play in GLC: it’ll be knocking out nearly any defending Pokémon for just one energy. But! Shiftry, its pre-evolved forms, and all cards attached to it will be sent to the Lost Zone for the rest of the game, without any chance of recovery. This means that Shiftry can pop off with one massive attack and go out in a blaze of glory. Look to this Pokémon to quickly deal with your opponents’ toughest threats!
Swim Freely: Finneon, Dewgong, Seadra
Some of the most creative GLC decks embrace a theme within the type they’re built in: some great examples include Poison Darkness, Spread Psychic, Rapid Strike Water, or Burn Fire. With this synergistic combo from Lost Origin, Water players have a new archetype to play around with: the Swim Freely Pokémon. This new Finneon accelerates energy freely, if you will, to Pokémon with the Swim Freely attack — an incredibly powerful ability for a Basic Pokémon. Lost Origin provides a few of these single-prizers to consider: Dewgong can deal a big burst of damage out of nowhere, and Seadra can snipe smaller Pokémon off the bench (and even evolve into Kingdra to keep energy in play). Combining Finneon with other energy acceleration or recovery like Frosmoth or Starmie can allow you to power up some strong attackers and wash away the competition!
In the previous main TCG set, Sword & Shield: Astral Radiance, we got a great support Pokémon in Hisuian Basculin, sporting a 0-energy setup attack that could get a board started in the early game, and a Hisuian Basculegion with a revenge attack that it could evolve into. We now have a second Hisuian Basculegion to consider with a different dynamic. This one has another free attack which ramps with the number of basic energy in the discard, then shuffles them into the deck to be reused later. This seems like a great synergy with common Hydro Pump attackers that Water decks love to play: right after your Lapras or Wishiwashi gets knocked out, send up Hisuian Basculegion to avenge your fallen Pokemon and get ready for more Rain Dancing in the future!
One of the coolest aspects of Gym Leader Challenge is marveling at the history of the Pokémon TCG all together in the same deck. One of my favorite instances of this is the two Dynamotor Pokemon in many Lightning decks: Eelektrik and Flaaffy. These two Pokemon have effectively identical stats, but can share space in a GLC decklist due to their different names. Notably, however, most trainers don’t include either of their evolutions: most Eelektross and Ampharos miss the mark on power or energy efficiency. But the EleFish Pokémon receives a strong new print in Lost Origin that Lightning trainers will want to consider for their decks! Eelektross can hit 160 damage for just two energy, which is incredibly efficient and can KO many threats in the format. But with the aid of its first attack, Coil, Eelektross will be dealing 280 damage at once, easily toppling bulky Pokémon like Torterra and Copperajah! Eelektross can be a great way to transform a supporter into an attacker at the end of your GLC games.
Standard players and GLC players alike are looking forward to this very interesting Ghost-type in Lost Origin. Gengar’s Creeping Back ability allows it to go straight from the discard pile to the bench, bypassing its Stage 2 restriction. And its attack is a great way to respond to opponents who are setting up quickly, especially decks like Grass or Water who want to fill their benches very quickly. While this Pokémon won’t take flashy knockouts on huge threats, you’ll see it Creeping Back to clean up after your other Pokémon and make your opponents scared to fill their bench!
This new form of Zoroark, now in its new Psychic-typing, has two really interesting new attacks, and both very cheap. Doom Curse is the most efficient way to knock out a Pokemon in this format, no matter their HP — provided your opponent doesn’t retreat or switch their Active Pokémon! Pair Hisuian Zoroark with Retreat Cost modifiers like Galar Mine or status-inducers like Long-Distance Hypnosis Munna to lock your opponent’s Pokémon into your Doom Curse! And if you do want to attach energy to Hisuian Zoroark, you can recover any card from your Discard Pile, making this Hisuian Zoroark a great option for a control deck. See what this versatile new Pokemon can do for your Psychic deck!
Of all the Lost Origin cards to get excited about, Machamp might be the most exciting — The Pokémon Company International even agrees, citing Gym Leader Challenge in an official news article, which is a huge deal for the format! The article highlights just why this Machamp is so powerful: when its Crisis Muscles ability is activated in the late game, this Pokémon will be the largest thing on the board, allowing you to make up for a slower start and take some important late-game Knock Outs! Just watch out for ways that your opponent can turn off Machamp’s ability, bringing its max HP back down to 150!
The Collective Pokémon is a very interesting new addition to GLC, especially in the Fighting type which typically lacks support Pokémon. Barbaracle has a passive Ability called Lost Block which causes your opponent to send their prizes straight to the Lost Zone instead of drawing them. This is a very powerful effect — preventing your opponent from using 10% of their deck, and stopping early-game Town Map shenanigans. Even if your opponents manage to knock out your tough Fighting-type Pokémon, they may find themselves regretting this when they see their key combo pieces exiled to the Lost Zone!
This goofy Pokémon may appear unassuming at first, but there may be some incredible potential hiding in this card! Galarian Stunfisk’s Field Trap attack can disrupt the opponent in multiple ways: removing their stadium AND two energy from their active Pokemon can cripple many gameplans. The low attack cost means that you can play this Stunfisk out of nowhere. Notably, this may be a great way to play against Amazing Rare Kyogre decks: discard their Chaotic Swell, Counter Energy, and Splash Energy all at once! Galarian Stunfisk may find a perfect home in a tricky defensive deck like Metal!
It seems there are no shortage of interesting Snorlax cards for Colorless trainers to consider, and the Snorlax from Lost Origin joins the ranks with the rest of them. This Pokémon can deal 180 damage for three of any energy, an incredibly explosive attack. With Porygon-Z‘s Crazy Code ability, we can see this Snorlax knocking out the strongest opponents out of nowhere! But look out — this lazy Pokémon loves to sleep, even during a heated battle. Its Heavy Snoring will likely leave it sleeping during your next turn or two if you can’t proactively switch Snorlax in and out of the Active Spot with cards like Switch or Escape Rope. Or, you could pair this Snorlax with Ditto; its Sudden Transformation ability will let it use Heavy Snoring, allowing you to chain this attack over and over with the help of other recovery cards. If you were looking for a deck that can apply some heavy pressure throughout the entire game, consider Snorlax in a Colorless GLC deck!
Pokémon Search cards are a staple of any deck, regardless of the format. In GLC we see most decks running 4-5 different Poké Balls and cards like Gloria, Brigette, or Sonia for additional Basic Pokémon search in the early game. But what if Gloria could search your evolution Pokémon? That’s exactly what the new Arezu Supporter does. While it isn’t as good on Turn 1 as the other Supporters mentioned, it excels on Turn 2 and beyond. Imagine getting your Drizzile, Blastoise, and Wailord all with one card, or your Grovyle, Grotle, and Venusaur. In a format where evolution Pokémon get the chance to shine, see if you can’t employ a Supporter who grabs a bunch of them all at once!
One pattern that almost all Gym Leader Challenge decks adhere to is the inclusion of Pokémon recovery cards – often a Rescue Stretcher and an Ordinary Rod or Super Rod. This has caused many lists to lean on less than the “minimum” six attackers; why play multiple evolution lines when you can recycle the ones you have? This standard may change with the new Lost City card, however. While its effect can be double-sided, being able to play this card down then taking an immediate knock out could be a great way to proactively deal with your opponent’s strongest threats. Notably, it’ll be interesting to see how this card impacts the Amazing Rare Kyogre deck. Will it be a powerful removal tool for opponents to remove this deck’s centerpiece from the game, or will it be a doomsday sign when Kyogre sends all your Pokémon to the Lost Zone instead of the Discard Pile? If you feel strongly either way, get out there and show us how it’s done!
Most Gym Leaders will tell you that Field Blower is a must-include in almost every list in the format: removing two Tools and/or Stadiums is an incredible value proposition for a single item. Lost Vacuum, new in Lost Origin, offers something slightly different: permanent removal of a troublesome Tool or Stadium. Your Chaotic Swell? Gone. Your Pot Helmet? Gone. Your Cape of Toughness? Gone. Removal without any chance of recovery is an incredibly powerful effect which should not be overlooked in GLC. Time will tell if this card will be played alongside Field Blower, or possibly replace it entirely.
Thorton is a new supporter which allows you to switch one of your Basic Pokémon in play with another Basic Pokémon in your discard pile, while retaining its board state – all attachments and status conditions, number of turns in play, etc. This card has a lot of utility – in the early stages of the game, it provides a safeguard against having your important basic pokemon gusted and knocked out very quickly. Was your Sobble knocked out? No worries, your remaining Alolan Vulpix with Beacon can suddenly become the Sobble and evolve into Drizzile for some Shady Dealings. Later on, you can recycle basic attackers, which gives you more options to set up combo plays over multiple turns. Darkness decks could especially make use of this card: Galarian Moltres’s Malevolent Charge ability + Thorton providing another alternative to power up Guzzlord in one turn!