Sword and Shield’s seventh set, Evolving Skies, unleashed some of my favorite artwork that I’ve ever seen in all of the Pokémon Trading Card Game. The Alternate artwork for many of the Eeveelutions is to die for. A giant Umbreon yearning for the moon. A giant Glaceon skating with their friends. Rayquaza and Zinnia just looking cool. The set brings some really great art.
But it wasn’t just the art that makes this set so great. It also brings with it, some cards that will likely find themselves in tournaments. The upcoming rotation of the standard will dump GX Pokémon, removing meta cards, such as Mew3 and Pikarom. Personally, I didn’t love the way tag teams dominated the meta, though the upcoming Fusion Strike set promises a similar mechanic in the future.
Let’s talk about what Evolving Skies brings to the table.
Pokémon Trading Card Game is no stranger to draw power. This set brings us even more of it. Copycat is not a new card, it has been reprinted a handful of times, but it is a great card that will see competitive play. It is good at refilling your hand. This is one of the best cards in the set, and you should be looking for them.
Similarly, Zinnia’s Resolve promises a hand full of cards. In a game where filling the bench is always in the meta, being able to draw a card for each of your opponents’ active Pokémon is a great mechanic. Ideally, you are discarding two cards and drawing six. This serves as somewhat of a soft counter to Eternatus VMAX. This is also going too pair well with the Rayquaza VMAX–Flaaffy combo that will be discuss later.
Another source of draw power, though slightly more limited, due to type, is Suicune V. Suicune V is going to allow you to draw a free card once per turn. Suicune V has an attack that isn’t inherently bad, but it isn’t the best attack you’ll find on a V Pokémon card. What we want here is the draw effect.
Draw power is going to pair well with another card from the set. That is Altaria, which lets you search your deck for any Supporter card and put it on top of your deck. Doing so and then using Suicune V‘s ability immediately puts it into your hand. There are other ways to do this, but this is another way, brought in by Evolving Skies.
Let’s talk about meta. With GX Pokémon rotating out of standard, V Pokémon are going to be dominating the meta. I say this knowing full well that Eternatus VMAX and Centiskorch VMAX are already sitting at the top of the current meta. This is why it’s important when anti-meta cards hit the scene. I loved and appreciated Galarian Obstagoon and Decidueye breaking the meta. Cards like Milotic and Glaceon VMAX are the staple anti-meta in Evolving Wilds.
Milotic is going to sit on a lot of benches, especially in a Water-type deck. You don’t particularly care about the attack, which has a potential 140 damage output. You play Milotic for the ability, which will shut down cards like Marnie and Judge. Even though it’s about to rotate out of standard, Milotic also shuts down Reset Stamp.
Once again, VMAX Pokémon are about to take over the meta. I mentioned earlier that we have cards like Galarian Obstagoon and Decidueye that shut down V Pokémon. Those are great, but now we have, what I consider one of the better cards in Evolving Skies, and certainly gives Umbreon VMAX a run for its money for the best Eeveelution in the set.
Glaceon VMAX prevents all damage from VMAX Pokémon in a standard that is about to heavily feature VMAX Pokémon. On top of that, it’s attack improves upon Decidueye‘s already very good attack, dealing 150 damage to the active Pokémon and 30 damage to a Pokémon on the bench. This creates potential for a great disruption in the meta.
Speaking of Eeveelutions, I would be remiss if I did not talk about Umbreon VMAX. I already mentioned the Umbreon VMAX is what I would consider to be the best Eeveelution in Evolving Skies. It is also my favorite alternate art in the whole set, and maybe all of Pokémon TCG. A giant Umbreon yearning for the moon is too adorable. It also has one of the best abilities of the Eeveelutions, giving you the ability to swap in one of your opponents benched Pokémon and the option (notice it says “may”) to swap in one of your own. If timed right, this can ruin your opponents setup or save the game for you.
This set also brings us a handful of good utility Pokémon. Marshadow was our go-to card for removing Stadium cards in play. Sadly, it’s about to rotate out of the standard format. In its place, Pokémon gave us Pumpkaboo. It’s not quite as good, because it needs to sit in your hand until you’re ready to use it, and with Marnie sitting in every standard deck, this card is no guarantee. However, it’s the best we’ll have. Besides, this may pair well with any of the four Castform cards from Chilling Reign.
Medicham V is another very good utility Pokémon. Yoga Loop is a great attack, allowing you to immediately take another turn if you land a knockout blow with it. With it only requiring two colorless energy, this Pokémon has a place in any deck.
It wouldn’t be difficult to swap this guy in to finish off your opponents active Pokémon or use it after you’ve been hitting your opponents bench with Decidueye or Glaceon VMAX. It can only be used once every other turn, but with Air Balloon, you can pull him right to the bench for free. You’re probably only to get this off once or maybe twice per game, but it will probably make a big difference.
Now comes my favorite combo to come from Evolving Skies. I would argue that Flaaffy is maybe the best card to come out of this set, not just because it combos so well with Rayquaza V and Rayquaza VMAX, but also because Dynamotor is one of the best abilities in the game. The one setback that I can see with this card is having a hard time protecting it with Bench Barrier Mew about rotate out.
Dynamotor was first seen on Eelektric in the Black & White block, and was subsequently paired with, ironically, Rayquaza EX and it was a great combo at the time. The duo has returned in Evolving Skies and I expect a lot of decks on the competitive circuit to either feature it or feature a way to counter it. Throw in Rose and Stormy Mountains, and you’ve got a force to be reckoned with.
The meta in Pokémon is an ever-changing landscape. With old sets rotating out soon, new sets are taking their place. We will certainly miss some of the better cards that are rotating out, but we look forward to more sets like Evolving Skies that continue to define the meta in the Pokémon Trading Card Game.
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