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Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day


Alolan Ninetales
- S&M: Burning Shadows
- #BUS 28

Date Reviewed:
August 28, 2017

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Standard: 3.25
Expanded: 3.55
Limited: 3.90

Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale.
1 being horrible.  3 ... average.  5 is awesome.

Back to the main COTD Page


Winding down from the large list of great cards in the set, we start coming to some of the pretty good to alright cards, starting with Alolan Ninetales which may be the latest "Safeguard" Pokemon. 

Naturally, I don't say that cause of the vanilla 3-for-80 Aurora Beam. It's good though, don't get me wrong, it can do some serious damage on its own. Just needs a little boost to get those magic numbers though. But really it's the Ability Luminous Barrier that really seals the deal. It blocks off all the attacks from Pokemon-EX and GX, including the damage and the effects, which is really solid.

It might not do much against things like Garbodor (GRI) or Volcanion (the non-EX STS), but it can do its fair share again the upcoming wave of GX Pokemon. On top of that, because of its phrasing, it's actually suitable to tackle on the likes of Rayquaza-EX and Mewtwo-EX in Expanded, something that the Safeguard Pokemon can only fend off the EX but not the GX (just because they were printed in a different time). 

Alolan Ninetales will probably see some play here and there, but I don't expect it to be as prominent as things like Sigilyph (DEX) were in their heyday. Mainly that's cause Sigilyph came out in a time where much of the format was dominated by Pokemon-EX, and there weren't many other Pokemon that could feasibly be set-up and attack in as quick a timespan as these behemoths. Nowadays, we've got Night March, Vengeance-style decks, and now Item-based power that is viable enough to prove as its own decks, alongside BREAK Evolution decks that take a little longer but also don't have to worry about falling victim to a Safeguard attack. 

Alolan Ninetales's impact will be primarily based on whether or not GX are prominent in Standard, cause I think in Expanded, the format's diverse enough that Alolan Ninetales may not show up as much. 


Standard: 3/5 (pretty good counter to GX, but that might be the extent of its Ability) 

Expanded: 3/5 (otherwise, there's enough diversity that it won't matter much)

Limited: 3.5/5 (at least Aurora Beam's still a good move) 

Arora Notealus: Alolan Ninetales is an amazing change-up to the Vulpix line-up. Though it does make me wonder how they're going to keep regional variants a thing in later installments? Will there be other region-specific changes, like in a jungle environment? At least with Alola, they had the advantage of diversifying an archipelago, but it might be harder to argue the same thing with branches off of Unova or Kalos or further extensions to the original four regions. 

Next Time: Man, this place is a little rundown, don't you think?


Alolan Ninetales’ (Burning Shadows, 28/147) non-GX form enters the meta from the Burning Shadows expansion set. A 110 HP, Stage 1 Water Pokemon, it brings us something that we have not seen since the inception of GX Pokemon: an anti-GX ability.  Alolan Ninetales’ ability Luminous Barrier prevents all damage and effects of attacks from your opponent’s GX or EX Pokemon.  Aside from Choice Band (Guardians Rising, 121/145), this is the first time we’ve seen a card present any sort of GX hate, and the fact that it has been built into a Pokemon that evolves from Alolan Vulpix (Guardians Rising, 21/145) makes it that much better.

All of us have discovered the functionality of Alolan Vulpix’s Beacon attack.  Many decks use Beacon to replace any of the various search balls that they might have previously used to go get Pokemon out of your deck, so it’s not a stretch to tech in an extra baby Ninetales even if you don’t have any Water energy to attack with just so you can possibly stall or derail your opponent’s offensive strategy.  But can you actually get a win just because you have Alolan Ninetales?  I put together a deck that only had Luminous Barrier Ninetales (well, that and Talonflame (Steam Siege, 96/114) and jumped on the ladder to see if I could squeak out a win or two just by trolling my opponents and punishing them if they don’t have an effective (or any) non-EX or non-GX attacker.

Going into this, I really thought that I’d be lucky to get more than two wins in ten matches with this deck.  I was sure this was going to be another 1-5 or 0-6 deck testing session.  Boy, was I surprised when I won nine out of the twenty matches I played.  And I could have probably won a tenth match but I horribly misplayed in one game against Volcanion (Steam Siege, 25/114) which is pretty embarrassing because this deck requires less brain power than any deck I have ever played period.  Seriously, if you want an easy deck to play, this is it.  It is VERY simple.  I’m telling you, if you need to climb the ladder but also want to watch the game or do homework or write a Pojo review, this is the deck to do that with.  Basically, in many matches, you will simply concede early on.  If your opponent turns up a Froakie (Breakpoint, 38/122) or a Grubbin (Sun & Moon, 13/149) or a Beldum (Guardians Rising, 83/145), just throw in the towel and hit the concede button.  However, I was genuinely surprised at the number of decks that simply didn’t have a non-EX or non-GX attacker (or an effective non-EX or non-GX attacker).  And I built the list to be as devoid of item cards as possible so Garbodor’s (Guardians Rising, 51/145) Trashalanche attack would be very, if not completely, ineffective.  I did add Field Blower (Guardians Rising, 125/145) to counter the other Garbodor’s (Breakpoint, 57/122) Garbotoxin, but, really, it’s the most basic of all strategies.  I just try to get two or three Alolan Ninetales set up with energy as quickly as possible.  That’s all there is to it.  It’s obviously better if you start Talonflame, but there are no tricks or special tactics, just go get Ninetales and go get energy.  When you do get them set up, that’s when you use the trolly cards Delinquent (Breakpoint, 98/122), Team Rocket’s Handiwork (Fates Collide, 112/124), and Team Skull Grunt (Sun & Moon, 133/149).  You do need to attack at times, but sometimes all you have to do is hang out and make sure you don’t go through your cards faster than your opponent.  That’s a big key – keeping an eye on how many cards your opponent has to burn through to find their non-EX or non-GX attacker.

So knowing that I could win a fair number of games simply with baby Ninetales, I decided to get greedy and see what would happen if I brought the GX version back into the deck.  For reference, let me remind you, dear reader, that when I previously reviewed Alolan Ninetales GX back on May 18th, I had mediocre success with it, and I honestly haven’t tried it since then, but I know that it won the Seniors division at worlds, so this is probably a good opportunity to revisit it.  Unfortunately, I had only a little more success with adding the GX Ninetales: 12 W and 8 L.  However, I would guess that you, dear readers, would put together a much superior Ninetales deck to mine.  I don’t know why, but I just can’t get my head wrapped around this deck.  I’ve posted both deck lists here:



Standard: 2.5 out of 5


Alolan Ninetales’ Luminous Barrier will definitely punish the unbalanced deck.  If you’re cutting corners and trying to streamline a deck by not including a good non-GX or non-EX attacker, this will make you pay.  It’s keeping us honest and making sure that we are building our decks properly.  However, as I’ve demonstrated in my testing, if you put four Luminous Barrier Ninetales in a deck and walk into your next tournament thinking that you’re going to wipe everyone out by walling them, you might want to think twice about that.  If you want to sleepwalk up the ladder without having to put a lot of mental energy into it and don’t care if your win percentage is most likely below your average, then you might want to give this a shot.


Monday: Alolan Ninetales

Tuesday: Po Town

Wednesday: Ho-oh GX

Thursday: Super Scoop Up

Friday: Ribombee


With September around the corner, I no longer need to score two separate formats; It will now be just Standard without having to put pre- and post- before it, though I’d be concerned about people who still worry about the last couple days of the previous format.  Let’s put the past aside and explore the future!


Today, we’re looking at Alolan Ninetales.  It has an ability and an attack.  Luminous Barrier blocks all damage from your opponent’s EX or GX Pokemon.  This is another “Safeguard” variant seen on Sigilyph (BW Dragons Exalted), Suicune (BW Plasma Blast), and Carbink (XY Fates Collide).  Unlike those three, they are outdated; GX Pokemon will strike them with ease.  Aurora Beam costs WCC for 80 damage, which is mostly filler.


Alolan Ninetales may give EXs and GXs a hard time, but there are other good one-prize attackers that’ll cause trouble for Ninetales.  As for which Alolan Vulpix to use, I say the Guardians Rising version is the best one; Beacon searches for 2 Pokemon without needing an energy to attack.  You could search for your other evolving pieces or even get your own Ninetales evolutionary line, such as this card and the GX version.




Standard: 3.5/5


Expanded: 3.6/5


Limited: 4/5




We have another modernized Safeguard user with a good evolving Basic on top of it.  However, countering a particular category is only some fraction of other categories that don’t care about this ability.


Alolan Ninetales (Luminous Barrier)

            So, pretty much the world had been very impressed by the existence of Alolan Ninetales as a viable competitive Pokemon. In Worlds, we see a Focus Sash support Alolan Ninetales with Icy Wind and Aurora Veil that took part in the team of the 2nd place finisher, and also as a whole, Alolan Ninetales GX is really doing its job well as a sniper and a nuker all in one. Not to mention its Ice Path GX which can turn games around, making it a viable wall as well. But its not exactly a wall to its literal sense, and thus for a pure wall we need to look elsewhere. And now we have a new wall, and its....... Alolan Ninetales from the recent SM Burning Shadows expansion!

            Alolan Ninetales is a Stage 1 Water type Pokemon with 110 HP, with a Weakness to Metal. This is big, since Metagross-GX is still big, and also some of the Ultra Beast Pokemon-GXs are confirmed to be Metal types, such as Kartana. A retreat cost of 1 is also uninspiring, but it is cheap to execute. Being a Water type, it does have lots of supports available; it has Aqua Patch (SM Guardians Rising) to accelerate Water energy from the discard pile, Manaphy-EX (XY BREAKpoint) that gives every Pokemon on your side free Retreat when they have a Water energy attached, and of course, its pre-evolution in Alolan Vulpix (SM Guardians Rising) which has a free energy move in Beacon to search for 2 Pokemon from your deck, which is amazing. In short, it is very good.

            This Alolan Ninetales has an ability and an attack, but mostly the ability is the talk of town, so let’s clear up the really unimpressive part; the attack. Aurora Beam is your vanilla attack that for a Water and 2 Colorless energies deals 80 damage. Well, 80 damage is rather good, considering the meta now. You can attach a Choice Band (SM Guardians Rising) to hit for 110 against Pokemon-EX and Pokemon-GXs, which is nice, and adding a Professor Kukui (SM Base Set) will bump it up to 130, which can 2 shot any meta Pokemon with no doubt. But the attack, again, is not why Alolan Ninetales is so high up the ladder.

            The reason why is that it has a powerful ability in Luminous Barrier. It says ”Prevent all effects of attacks, including damage, done to this Pokemon by Pokemon-EX or Pokemon-GX”. Sounds familiar? Well, its because its a enhanced reprint of Sigilyph (BW Dragons Exalted), Suicune (BW Plasma Blast), and Carbink (XY Fates Collide), with all of them sharing the same theme; its the Safeguard-style ability. Back in their days, they are fantastic walls in which you can just chuck in the Active position while you setup your main attacker. Alolan Ninetales is expected to be better than those, just because look at the meta! We have such prominent Pokemon like Drampa-GX, Turtonator-GX, Volcanion-EX, Gardevoir-GX, Mega Gardevoir-EX, Golisopod-GX, and so on, and so forth. And they all get walled by this Alolan Ninetales just because of its ability! And being a Stage 1, the only Pokemon that can help them get past you is only by using Garbodor (XY BREAKpoint), due to Garbotoxin or by using a non EX or GX attacker, as Alolan Muk (SM Base Set) cannot wall you! And it also gets easy setup despite being an evolution because of the afformentioned Alolan Vulpix which has Beacon!

            But folks, that is where things started to go wrong. You see, the reason why the first 3 Safeguard walls are good in their days is because of one fact; they are Basic Pokemon which you can just chuck in the Active slot for some good walling. Alolan Ninetales isn’t a Basic, but an Evolution Pokemon. It is also really weak to Ability-lock; besides the aformentioned Garbodor, you also have Hex Maniac (XY Ancient Origins) in Expanded. But it does fit in its surrounding meta; the format that it will thrive upon are based on evolution-heavy, and thus needs several turns to setup. With that in consideration, actually Luminous Barrier is pretty solid at the job of walling the more prominent threats in the form of Pokemon-GXs, but against the faster Pokemon-EXs, I fear it may not stood a chance. It does has more HP to compensate and you get to use the Alolan Vulpix, which is a bonus. 

Overall, I think to get just that extra setup and walling, Alolan Ninetales is a good one-off or two-off in most decks just for the ability, and that alone can help you win games.

Standard: 4/5 (does its job really well, and it can beat the more prominent Pokemon-GXs to oblivion)

Expanded: 2.8/5 (gets fierce competition from the other Safeguard walls, especially Suicune, since its faster and more chuckable)

Limited: 4.2/5 (lots of playable Pokemon-GXs in this set boosts Alolan Ninetales’ playability)

P.S. Seeing the Ultra Beast Pokemon-GXs does make me scared because it gets outsped in setup speed by being an Evolution, so this will come into considerations later.

Next Time on SM Burning Shadows:
Time to raid a visit to the base of memes worldwide.


With our Top 10 countdown for the latest expansion complete, what to do?  Time for runners-up!  We’ll start with the card that would have been our 11th place finisher if we’d taken more than two weeks for the countdown: Alolan Ninetales (SM: Burning Shadows 28/147)!  This is a Stage 1 Water-Type Pokémon with 110 HP, Metal Weakness, no Resistance, Retreat Cost [C], the Ability “Luminous Barrier”, and the attack “Aurora Beam”.  Luminous Barrier prevents all damage or effects of attacks done to Alolan Ninetales by your opponent’s Pokémon-EX and Pokémon-GX.  Aurora Beam costs [WCC] and does 80 damage.  So… what does all of this mean?  Being a Stage 1 is better than being any other Stage except being a Basic Pokémon, which still forms the baseline.  Being a Water-Type is definitely a net positive; good Type support, solid pool of Pokémon (both supporting and attacking), and a good chance of exploiting Weakness (nearly all Fire-Types and some Fighting-Types) with just less and less relevant Resistance in the Expanded Format and Type-specific counters I only mention because they are on the lesser used half of Parallel City.  110 HP is a probable OHKO… at least before the Ability.  Metal Weakness could become a problem - Gardevoir-GX provides a heavy incentive run the Type -  but most Metal-Types aren’t known for hitting hard and fast without the kind of support that would lead to a OHKO anyway.  No Resistance is the worst, but also the most common; -20 damage with 110 HP would help even against a single matchup, but not enough for me to dock Alolan Ninetales for it.  The Retreat Cost is good; easy to pay most of the time, though you’ll feel it if you have to pay it turn after turn. 

Luminous Barrier is why people are excited about this card, and it isn’t too hard to see why; though there are many attackers that are neither Pokémon-EX or Pokémon-GX, they are the powerhouses of the format.  Most decks will run at least one such card in an attacking role, and several focus on them; a wall they can’t breach is a serious obstacle.   Getting around Luminous Barrier varies from easy to difficult, depending upon both sides of the match up.  The easiest way to bypass it is to simply use an attacker that is not either a Pokémon-EX or Pokémon-GX; just because a deck focuses on one or the other doesn’t mean it can’t have at least one attacker that is neither.  It can be even easier for certain Pokémon-GX, as Stage 1 and 2 Pokémon-GX Evolve from “regular” Basic (or Basic and Stage 1) Pokémon.  If your opponent has anything worth hitting on the Bench, then Guzma, Lysandre, Bench-attacks, etc. all allow a player to effectively ignore Luminous Barrier.  Decks packing Garbodor (XY: BREAKpoint 57/122) or Hex Maniac can shut the Ability off, while certain attacks are able to ignore effects on the Defending Pokémon.  The first is a pretty common situation, as it can be hard to field just Alolan Ninetales; it is a huge risk to just have one Active, and having multiple in play takes more resources and some decks just don’t care about Luminous Barrier.  As for Aurora Beam, 80 for three is a bit low, but [WCC] is somewhat friendly to being splashed into off-Type decks and can take advantage of Double Colorless Energy.  When on-Type, Aqua Patch also speeds things up.  With Choice Band and/or sometimes Professor Kukui, you should score some solid 2HKO’s; as long as Luminous Barrier is working, even 3HKO’s can be fast enough. 

Alolan Ninetales Evolves from Alolan Vulpix, and we’ve got two options there: SM: Guardians Rising 21/145 and SM: Burning Shadows 27/147.  Both are Basic, Water-Type Pokémon with 60 HP, Metal Weakness, no Resistance, Retreat Cost, [C], and two attacks, and this time.  SM: Guardians Rising 21/145 can use “Beacon” for [0] to search your deck for up to two Pokémon, add them to your hand, then shuffle your deck; for [CC] it can use “Icy Snow” to do 20 damage.  SM: Burning Shadows 27/147 also has an attack for [0], but this time it is “Powder Snow”, which puts the opponent’s Active to Sleep if you get “heads” on a coin flip and does nothing on “tails”; it can also use Icy Snow, but its version costs [WW] and does 30 damage.  More than a few successful decks are using SM: Guardians Rising 21/145 for its Beacon attack; they set up slowly anyway and may also want to give up a Prize (even two) to make use of cards like N and Teammates.  I haven’t used it much and when I did, it failed terribly, but that was probably the deck’s fault.  A single copy of this Alolan Vulpix was used in the Gardevoir-GX deck that won the 2017 Worlds Championship in the Masters Division, and several other decks have shown that I just had either a bad list or bad luck.  Both Icy Snow attacks are filler, and Power Snow falls in between Beacon and Icy Snow; only a 50% chance of doing anything, and there’s a 50% chance that a Sleeping Pokémon wakes up between turns.  Together, that means only a 25% chance of mattering before ways your opponent can actively deal with Sleep!  Better than a weak, damaging attack, though. 

There is also Alolan Ninetales-GX, which was our 12th place finisher when we did a Top 15 countdown for SM: Guardians Rising.  I still have a half finished review for that card on my to-do list, because I still haven’t perfected shorter CotDs.  I had it as my 14th place pick on my personal Top 15, but we’ll run through it really quickly since I never got an official review up.  Like today’s card, it is a Stage 1 Water-Type with Metal Weakness, no Resistance, a Retreat Cost of [C} and which Evolves from Alolan Vulpix.  Being a Pokémon-GX not only means it gives up an extra Prize when KO’d, has to deal with anti-Pokémon-GX effects, should have better stats and effects, and has three effects (one being a GX-attack) but also means its name is different than that of regular Alolan Ninetales; I wouldn’t recommend it, but you could run four of each in a deck.  Alolan Ninetales-GX has 210 HP, 100 more than today’s Alolan Ninetales and enough to frequently avoid being OHKO’d.  The Weakness and lack of Resistance hurt a bit worse here as the HP makes them more relevant, though the lack of Resistance is still mostly me just nitpicking.  The Stage, Typing, and Retreat Cost remain useful.  Alolan Ninetales-GX has three attacks.  The first is “Ice Blade” for [CC], which does 50 damage to one of your opponent’s Pokémon; you pick, and Weakness/Resistance won’t apply for Benched targets.  “Blizzard Edge” costs [WWC] and allows Alolan Ninetales-GX to do 160 damage while requiring you discard two Energy from itself.  The GX-attack is “Ice Path-GX” and it costs [CC]; this attack allows Alolan Ninetales-GX to move all damage counters from itself to your opponent’s Active Pokémon.  Though not brilliant, these attacks are good or very good, with Ice Path-GX only suffering because it eats up your GX-attack for the game.  In short, it’s a very good, maybe even a great card. 

Neither Alolan Ninetales nor Alolan Ninetales-GX showed up in the top eight decks of the Masters Division of the 2017 World Championships but that isn’t the full story.  Some players did do reasonably well with Alolan Ninetales-GX decks in the age bracket, with one managed a 12th place finish: still impressive for the Masters Division of the World Championships!  Besides doing well in some of the last few events prior to Worlds, Alolan Ninetales-GX won the Senior Division with it while another player took 5th.  I am a bit surprised those decks didn’t include at least one regular Alolan Ninetales, as the card seems like a must run for Alolan Ninetales-GX decks, or at least those running a few sources of [W] Energy (some Alolan Ninetales-GX decks use it only for Ice Blade and Ice Path-GX).  I’ve encountered some on the PTCGO running Alolan Ninetales and while I’m not convinced you should build an entire deck around it, if you did, I’d want to include an Alolan Ninetales-GX just in case.  Otherwise, Alolan Ninetales remains a good, but not great, card.  It’s dead weight in some matchups, a valuable wall (that can still attack) in others, but will usually fall somewhere in between.  It faces some added competition in Standard play due to more Pokémon that can wall against Pokémon-EX, but they can’t stop Pokémon-GX so it is their other aspects (most of them are Basic Pokémon) that enable them to remain relevant.  It is a nice card for the Limited Format, where Arora Beam being mostly Colorless in its cost lets it to slip into most any deck and deliver a solid offense; you probably won’t be able to take advantage of Luminous Barrier most matches, but when your opponent does have a Pokémon-GX, they’ll have to switch attackers.  Assuming they can; this is an added risk for Pokémon-GX in +39 builds.  This card is also found in the “Luminous Frost” Theme deck; I don’t think any official Theme Decks have a Pokémon-EX or Pokémon-GX in them, but it is still a decent Stage 1 here, and if you’re doing the Trainer Challenge, then the Ability can matter. 


Standard: 3.35/5 

Expanded: 3.25/5 

Limited: 3.5/5 

Theme: 3.35/5 

Conclusion & Top 10 Background 

For now, merging the two headings; once we get done with “runners-up”, it will revert back to a simple “conclusion”.  Alolan Ninetales definitely has enough going for it that I expect it to see competitive play; in fact, I’m surprised no noteworthy deck managed to Top 8 with it at Worlds, especially the Alolan Ninetales-GX decks.  Maybe being a Stage 1 just makes it too slow/space consuming to work like the ol’ Safeguard Pokémon, maybe attackers are too diverse for Luminous Barrier to provide enough protection, or maybe it is something else I missed, but I still think this is a good (just not “very good”, let alone “great”) card. 

Alolan Ninetales earned 7 voting points and appeared on two personal top 10 lists plus it took 14th place on my runners-up list, which Alolan Ninetales needed because two other cards also earned 7 voting points.  The tie was broken in its favor because of luck; I misread my own tiebreaking notes.  Again.  Tomorrow’s 12th place finisher earned the same amount of voting points, also shows up on two personal Top 10 lists but made both mine and another reviewer’s extra-large lists.  13th place only made two lists, so at least I got that part right.  Still, a reason for me to be glad this is an unofficial ranking.

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