The Pokémon Company international usually releases four “main” sets per year – most recently, Sword & Shield: Brilliant Stars and Sword & Shield: Astral Radiance. But at least once a year, we get a special collector’s set, such as Shining Fates or Champion’s Path. This year’s collector’s set is Pokémon GO, but don’t let the “collector’s” designation fool you! This expansion, despite its small size, contains many fantastic options for players to improve their Gym Leader Challenge decks with, so let’s take a look!
Many GLC players – both long-time trainers and newcomers to the format – may be concerned about the availability of older cards which have been turned from bulk to staples by GLC. For example, Ivysaur from Dark Explorers, the only Ivysaur that can be searched by Level Ball, has seen its price increase to around $5 USD (compared to roughly $0.20 USD that many other uncommons from the set are priced at), and supply is tight as sellers scramble to pick their decade-old collections for this once bulk card. But Grass trainers should be excited by the prospect of this new Ivysaur from Pokémon GO. Although this Ivysaur has 100 HP, it has two important advantages over the Dark Explorers Ivysaur. Firstly, its retreat cost of 3 means that you can search it out with Heavy Ball; with Grotle, Torterra, Venusaur, and Rillaboom also having this hefty retreat cost, trainers may consider adding Heavy Ball to their decks to cover their bases. Pokémon GO Ivysaur also has the fantastic Summoning Aroma attack, helping you recover from poor board positions where you may be forced to attack with Ivysaur in the first place. Whereas before there was one strictly optimal choice for Ivysaur in GLC, there are now two fantastic options that trainers can make their case for!
Before Pokémon GO, many would argue that the most challenging type in GLC was Fire (excluding the discontinued Fairy type of course). Despite powerful acceleration like Welder, Blacksmith, and Magma Basin, trainers found difficulty stringing together its energy-hungry attackers for an entire game. But Burn Brightly Charizard from Pokémon GO could be just the answer to Fire trainers’ woes. With a very similar effect to Shining Legends Venusaur’s Jungle Totem ability, Charizard single-handedly re-contextualizes the Fire type in GLC. Heatmor from Fusion Strike has a powerful two-target attack that requires a whopping six Energy to fully execute. But with Burn Brightly on the field, this Heatmor is much easier to power up; attachment for turn combined with Welder can bring Heatmor up out of nowhere. Fire-type Gym Leaders are certainly stoked over this powerful new option for their decks!
Throughout the history of the TCG, Slowbro has had some of the most interesting (and strange) attack effects, and is probably the only Pokemon with attacks that can instantly win the game and lose the game. Luckily, this Slowbro recalls the BREAKpoint Slowbro which can win the game instantly under the right conditions. Twilight Inspiration is similar to attacks like Articuno’s Tri Edge which can take two Prizes at once – a very powerful effect in GLC. And although Slowbro can only use Twilight Inspiration after your opponent has taken exactly five Prizes, it bypasses dealing damage entirely and takes two Prizes at once in the face of even the largest Pokémon. This is a great way to recover from a slow start and steal the game out from under your opponent at the last second!
Long-time Pokémon players may recognize Alolan Raticate’s Super Fang attack, reading identically to Boundaries Crossed Raticate. This attack was combined with cards that could “cheat” that last damage counter onto the opponent’s Pokémon, including cards that “ping” damage like Sneaky Bite Golbat from Phantom Forces or the infamous Hypnotoxic Laser. Darkness Gym Leaders may consider similar strategies in their decks going forward. Besides the aforementioned Hypnotoxic Laser, trainers may consider Galarian Zigzagoon to clean up afterward, poisoning and Ability locking with Galarian Weezing, or even cleaning up for extra prizes with Guzzlord’s Red Banquet attack. With all of these options, Alolan Raticate is sure to enable some sneaky strategies to take down even the bulkiest GLC foes with ease!
Since Pokémon’s Fossil set, Ditto has always had fascinating abilities that reflect its role as the Transform Pokémon. Pokémon GO Ditto continues this tradition with its Sudden Transformation Ability. This turns Ditto into a second copy of any Basic attacker in your Colorless deck, and synergizes well with Crazy Code Porygon to charge up quickly. Although it has a low 70 HP, it can surprise opponents who thought they’d seen the last of your Lugia’s Wind Pressure or Kangaskhan’s Rally Back! The best part about this Ditto is that it scales with the power of the format; when Dark Phantasma Snorlax is released with its 180-damage attack, this Ditto becomes that much stronger. By doubling up on your best Pokémon, this Ditto will surely be a consideration for Colorless decks going forward.
Experienced GLC players will have a strong relationship with Rebel Clash Dragapult – either love or hate, depending on your luck with coin flips. That Infiltrator Ability returns in Ambipom’s Primate Dexterity Ability, giving the Long Tail Pokémon a 50% chance to nullify any attack’s damage. But the high rolling doesn’t stop there. Full Tilt Fling recalls Sword & Shield Maractus’s Powerful Needles attack, with the Ability to reach incredible damage ceilings… or miss even the easiest of KO’s! With Porygon-Z’s Crazy Code Ability to charge tons of energy onto Ambipom, trainers can shoot for the moon and coin-flip their way to victory… or defeat! Ambipom is definitely the gambling trainer’s new best friend, making every attack feel like the entire game is on the line!
And that’s it for Pokémon GO! While it won’t shake up the format as much as a full-sized quarterly set, it’ll surely present plenty of interesting options for trainers in spite of its small size. This set is already out, so be sure to pick up some cards or codes if you haven’t yet and see how you can change up your decks with Pokémon GO!