Opinions and Stories

TCG Set Review: Rising Rivals v2.0 (SM Guardians Rising)

A review of SM Guardians Rising, in which everything gets a reprint, Tapu Lele GX is the new Shaymin EX, and an old friend returns from the dead to haunt TCG veterans.

“A Guardian is always prepared” – Galio (pre-rework), League of Legends

Well, unless said guardian is named Tapu Bulu or Tapu Fini, in which case it’s sitting out another set. Sorry about that. But hey, Koko and Lele are here!

So nearly three months have passed since Sun and Moon’s Trading Card Game release shook the format to its core with the release of the GX cards, which are about as Fair and Balanced as Fox News. So what next? Well more GXes of course!

I have taken the liberty of meticulously analyzing each and every card in the upcoming TCG set for playability, artistic value, and interesting mechanics. As such, I will be using this article to forgo whatever results I may have picked up from this analysis and just rant about which cards I like and don’t like. So without further ado, here is the second set in the seventh generation, the second in the Sun and Moon block, and the equivalent of the Japanese Islands Waiting for You and Moonlight of AlolaSun and Moon: Guardians Rising.

OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: These are my opinions, and Japanese pictures of two cards are used because I couldn’t find an English version anywhere.


Symbol – 
Abbreviations – GRI, SM2
Cards – 145 + 24 Secret Rares
Dominant Type(s) – Water by a LOT.
Card Distribution – 127 Pokémon, 18 Trainers.
Special Cards – 12GXes, 12 FA GXes, 15 SR GXes, 3 FA Trainers, 5 SR trainers, 4 SR Energy

Cool Cards

Golisopod (8)

It’s ya boi Golisopod. *Guzma’s battle theme plays* That is all.

The major overarching theme of this set is “Let’s recycle as many old abilities/moves/effects as we can onto new cards”. To that extent, Golisopod’s Armor Ability reminds me a lot of Donphan Prime (HGSS 107)‘s Exoskeleton Poké-Body, except more powerful. While Donny Boy reduced damage from all attacks by 20, Armor blocks 30 damage from each incoming attack passively. This isn’t inherently much, but if you can limit your opponent’s burst damage it could help a lot.

However, that isn’t why you are playing this card. You are playing Golisopod for its ability to do 150 damage to any EX or GX with its attack, Resolute Claws. A Grass Energy and a DCE (Double Colorless Energy), lets you knock out any Grass-weak EX or GX such as Keldeo EX (the irony here is that Keldeo is the “Resolute Pokémon”) in one attack. Add a Choice Band to increase the potential knockouts to include unevolved GXes and literally every non-mega EX. Not bad for a Stage 1 that only gives up a single prize when killed.

Alolan Sandslash (20)

This card does nothing except operate as a draw bot competitively. However, Snowslash is my favorite Alolan Form and looks like a boss in this art. Like, look at those claws and spikes and the snow he kicked up preparing his massive attack swirling around him. AWESOME. I build my decks first based on what I like and then what looks cool, followed by what is viable. Snowslash hits the first couple criteria, so it’s okay in my book.

Alolan Ninetales GX (22, 132 [FA], 150 [SR])

The first and presently only Alolan Form GX is… basically a worse version of Lapras. The reason Icetales shows up here is that majestic hair. Like, this Pokémon is beautiful. Especially the SR art. I’ll stop now.

I’m not throwing a picture in here, but Alolan Vulpix is also a cool card, as well as being the co-MVP of my prerelease deck. Being able to search your deck for 2 Pokémon for the low price of ZERO energy was quite nice in the fast-paced format of prereleases.

Delibird (26)

“But ddrox, Delibird always has to be complete and utter trash.”


SM2 Delibird is now absolutely my go-to early-game draw Pokémon, replacing Togepi (HGSS 70). I jest, of course, but it isn’t as bad as most other renditions of Delibird. I mean, it has an attack that is literally called “All the Presents”. Said attack is (almost) viable, as it gives you a 50% chance of letting you search your deck for at least any 1 card, a 25% chance of making that number 2, and a ~1.421×10-12% chance of letting you search for all 46 cards you wouldn’t have seen by this point. Also it is freaking Santa Penguin, and who doesn’t love Santa Penguin?

Vikavolt GX (45, 134 [FA], 152 [SR])


180 damage is not a number to be scoffed at, especially if it is spammable. Super Zap Cannon (not to be confused with regular Zap Cannon) costs a Lightning and three Colorless, and you need to discard two energy to use it. However, we have ways around this restriction, such as Eelektrik (NVI 40) in Expanded or Vikavolt (SM 102) in Standard. Find some way to spam Super Zap Cannon and you will be basically OHKOing the entire format.

Gigatron GX isn’t bad as GX Attacks go either, allowing you to put 60 damage on every one of your opponent’s Benched Pokémon. As an added bonus, Wide Lens is still in the format. This allows your GX attack to apply Weakness and Resistance. In addition to laying complete ruin to anything Mega Rayquaza decks were planning, this also allows you to take out multiple benched Shaymin EX in a single blow. As players often get stuck with two of the things on their half of the field, this could be 4 prizes for minimal effort. A solid trade if I say so myself. Plus, all the energy you will want to play serves as a nice setup for…

Tapu Koko GX (47, 135 [FA], 153 [SR)

Remember when I said “A Guardian is always prepared”? As long as you have a couple Lightning on the field, Tapu Cocoa is always ready.

Again reinforcing my point of reusing old Abilities, Melemele Island’s guardian deity is basically a better version of Dragonite EX (FUF 74). Its Aero Trail Ability acts like Dragonite’s Bust In in that it allows you to move any number of basic (Lightning in Koko’s case) energy to the Pokémon when it played to the Bench, and instantly moving the new Pokémon to the Active slot where it can attack instantly. Dragonite’s downfall was that it needed three energy of two different types to use its move, and one of them had to be discarded to get to 120 damage. Koko, on the other hand, uses two Lightning and a Colorless to do a flat 130 damage with Sky High Claws. It has a GX move too, specifically Tapu Thunder GX, which punishes energy stacking by dealing damage per energy attached to all your opponent’s Pokémon.

Garbodor (51)

There is one notable exception to the “Let’s recycle as many old abilities/moves/effects as we can onto new cards” mentality of this set: Garbodor. And thank Arceus for that, the LAST thing we needed was another season of Garbotoxin spam.

The reason I like this Garbodor (or more correctly, don’t despise) is very simple: Like Noble Victories and Plasma Blast before it, this is the 3rd set where Garbodor has not had the Garbotoxin Ability, which has single handedly dragged the meta into a ditch for 5 years and counting. Garbotoxin blocks all other Abilities from being active, assuming Garbodor has a Tool attached to it. At long last, there is a chance we finally get the most recent print (BPT 57) out of the format in 2 rotations.

Oricorio (55)

I mention this mostly due to Sensu Oricorio’s cool card art. However, it also could see use as a tech in some Vespiquen-weak decks (read as: Lapras variants). For a mere 1 colorless energy, it can place 10 damage on any of your opponent’s Pokémon for each Pokémon in their Discard Pile. Vespiquen (AOR 10) requires a large number of Pokémon in their Discard pile, leaving it well set for KOing whatever Sensei Oricorio feels like.

This guy was also the co-MVP of my Prerelease deck this set, which would automatically earn him a spot here, but in this case he was here anyway. Bonus points!

Toxapex GX (57, 136 [FA], 154 [SR])

Well, this card exists. Toxapex GX looks like it is ready to body some fools. For once the card art doesn’t lie, because this thing is stupidly hilarious. Its first attack was probably ripped directly off a Cloyster card at some point, but I haven’t looked that far into it. What we are here for is the second attack. Super Intense Poison does exactly what it says on the cover, which is to say poison things. The “Super Intense” bit is the rest of the attack text, which says “Put 10 damage counters instead of 1 on the Poisoned Pokémon between turns.” Yes, you read that correctly. 100 damage between turns. This damage happens both after your turn and after theirs should they choose not to retreat or otherwise remove the poison. BUT THAT ISN’T EVEN THE THING’S GX ATTACK! Said GX Attack (Total Shelter GX), which for reasons I fail to understand is not called Baneful Bunker, deals 150 damage and then blocks all effects of attacks done to Toxapex during the opponent’s next turn. So Toxapex forces you to retreat and you also can’t hit it? How wonderful.

Tapu Lele GX (60, 137 [FA], 155 [SR])

The thought process behind this card:

TPC Staff 1: “Hey TPC Staff 2, what do you think would happen if two OP cards had a kid?”

TPC Staff 2: “Hmmm… I like where this is going. What cards did you have in mind?”

TPC Staff 1: “I was thinking we should start with Mewtwo EX (NXD 54)‘s X-Ball attack, which deals 20x the amount of Energy attached to both Active Pokémon, but I can’t decide where to go from there.”

TPC Staff 2: “That sounds evil! How about something with an overpowered ability… Shaymin EX maybe?”

TPC Staff 1: “The LAST thing we want is another 4 years of Shaymin. Maybe something just a little less broken… Jirachi EX (PLB 60)?”

TPC Staff 2: “You mean the one that lets you search for a Supporter when it comes into play? Let’s do it!”

Lycanroc GX (74, 138 [FA], 156 [SR])

Why hello there Luxray Lv.X (RR 102). Welcome back to Standard. We sorely missed you. Like, we REALLY missed you. Wait, that’s wrong. Go back to 2011 you scum, and take your pet Garchomp with you.

I’m sorry, this isn’t actually Luxray? It must be. They start with the same letter, they look similar, their surnames both contain the letters G and X, and Lycanroc’s Ability was taken nearly word for word from Luxxy’s Poké-Power.

Said ability, Bloodthirsty Eyes, says “When you cast Rock Dog GX to evolve Rock Puppy, Cast Lysandre without paying it’s mana cost.” I may have paraphrased slightly and/or put it in Magic the Gathering terminology, but my point stands.

Hello Luxray my old friend…

For those who lack context here, Luxray Lv.X and its partner in crime Garchomp Lv.X (SV 145) shaped the format by themselves for a good 3 years. LuxChomp, as the deck was called, won more competitive tournaments than any other deck in 2009-2010 (including 2/3 age groups at Worlds), and was also heavily played in 2010-2011 season. The standard play there was to have Luxray use Bright Look to bring up whatever the LuxChomp player wanted and then Garchomp to pew pew whatever it so chooses. And Devolution Spray didn’t exist at that point.

Will Rock Dog shape the future of the format? Probably not, but that isn’t stopping me from playing it.

Honchkrow (79)

Remember how we spent 2 sets building up a ton of bench damage stuff (see: Decidueye GX, Vikavolt GX)? Well here is the payout. 10 damage plus 10 more for each damage counter on ALL your opponent’s Pokémon. If they have, say, 300 damage on their bench (one cast of Gigatron GX), Honchy is doing 310 damage. That OHKOes literally everything in the game. Overkills, even. Even without burning your GX attack, Decidueye GX also can pew pew arrow anything it wants to increase The Godfather Bird’s damage output. And all of this is for a mere DCE.

Whimsicott (91)


Whimsicott may be the greatest meme the TCG has seen in many, many years. It is a Fairy-type Stage 1 with one attack that doesn’t matter and then… well… ummmm… that… uhhhh… thing. The Wages of Fluff (the 2nd greatest attack name in this set behind All the Presents) basically says “In the event that the target doesn’t retreat next turn AND you KO said target next turn, you claim 2 bonus Prize Cards”. This is HUGE if it works. 2 extra Prizes is like killing an extra GX or EX with a 1 Colorless attack from a Stage 1. And yes, it has free Retreat.

Oh, and Articuno (ROS 17) still exists. It says “If this Pokémon KOes an enemy, take 1 extra prize card”. For those counting at home, KOing a GX/EX with Articuno after it has been hit with Wages of Fluff is 2 (GX kill) + 2 (Whimsi) + 1 (Articuno passive) = 5 Prizes in ONE attack. Remember when I said GXes were Fair and Balanced? Well, it just gave up 5 prizes. Oops.

Oh also it is a ball of fluff. That is all.

Aqua Patch (119, 161 [SR])

Remember Turbo Dark? You know, that deck from like 2014 (not to be confused with the 2017 reboot)? Well say hello to Turbo Water. Or, you know, Quad Lapras. Probably more effective that way.

Aqua Patch, like Dark Patch before it, lets you dump a Water Energy from your Discard Pile onto a benched Water Pokemon. I’ll just mention Lapras GX again and let you figure the rest out. Now, when are we getting Water Claw?

Field Blower (125, 163 [SR])

Wooooooooooooooooooooosh. This card makes up to two enemy Tools or Stadiums go poof. This can totally ruin some strategies, like removing Forest of Giant Plants from a Grass deck or a Float Stone from whatever, or the tool of choice from Garbodor.

Assorted “Reprints”

I mentioned a large number of cards that reminded me of older cards above, but here are a few more I noticed that didn’t make the above list. They may not be exact replicas of abilities, but they are close enough that I’m counting it. There are also a few where the effect has been printed on many different Pokémon, so I chose the most fitting I could find in each case.

Bad Cards

Vikavolt GX/Lunala/Solgaleo/SR Starters/Sylveon GX/Politoed

I cannot STAND incomplete evolution lines, and this set had plenty of them. Yes, ‘Volt is up there in the Cool section too, but it needs to be mentioned because Charjabug is adorable and also not in this set. Don’t have an image for these guys but you get the point.

Multi Switch

A nerf to the worst trainer card in the format. Exactly what we didn’t need. I mean, at least Energy Switch let you move the Energy from your Active to the Bench or from Bench to Bench. The only upside to this card is the ability to move DCEs around, which Energy Switch lacked.

Wishiwashi GX (38)

GXes are supposed to have nice, useable non-GX attacks. Tauros can deal up to 190 for a DCE. Lapras does 160 for three energy. Lurantis hits 120 for three, but also provides a helpful buff. Vikavolt does 180 for four. Wishiwashi does… 120 for FIVE energy. And if you do use its GX attack (also five energy), all of that energy is forcibly moved to your bench. Why? Just why?



All in all, Guardians Rising looks fun. Cool designs, powerful abilities (albeit mostly reused), and generally strong tactics make this my favorite set in a while.

Final Score: Cocoa/10

That’s all the time I have for today. Join me in August for another fabulous TCG Set Analysis, and make sure to pick up some cards from Sun and Moon: Guardians Rising when they release on May 5th! If you have any thoughts on this new set, tell us in the comments. Until then, have fun attempting to recreate LuxChomp, and we shall come together to once more to face the Burning Shadows this summer!

Edited by bobandbill, Volpe Artica, and Z25. Images marked with the Pokellector watermark are courtesy of pokellector.com. Choice Band, Tapu Koko GX, and Multi Switch courtesy of PokéCommunity user ChariotsOfThyer. Oricorio courtesy of PokéCommunity user Zach. Japanese cards originally uploaded to bulbapedia.com. Victini and the Drampa cover image uploaded by ddrox13. All others are from pokemon.com.