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Top 10 Sun & Moon

#10 - Primarina-GX
- Sun & Moon

Date Reviewed:
Feb. 6, 2017

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Standard: 2.88
Expanded: 3.00
Limited: 4.25

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

Back to the main COTD Page


Welcome to our first Top 10 List of 2017! And with it, the dawn of a new era! The bright light of the shining sun of a generation! Or the light shining off the moon...of the next...generation...something like that. To be honest, it looks like this list has been a bit...divisive between the rest of us. A lot of these cards got very similar scores for whatever reason or another, but despite fighting tooth-and-nail, only ten of them get onto the list. 

Sometimes this comes from scoring on everyone's lists, and sometimes it comes from scoring high on one person's list. In fact, Primarina-GX is probably here because I take sole credit for putting it so high up on my list. Is she worth the hype being sold, or is she just going to flounder about in a pool of water? Only time will tell, but let's see if I can't convince you of her exceptional prowess. 

First of all, she is a Pokemon-GX. You might call this a rebranding of Pokemon-EX, but instead of every Pokemon getting treated as a Basic to start with, Pokemon-GX are actual evolutionary lines - more like Pokemon Prime or the older Pokemon-ex (lower case, yes). Very similar rules apply - when a Pokemon-GX is KO'd, the opponent takes two Prizes. So what's the main selling point? Well aside from HP scores matching those of most Mega-EX, the biggest draw to the new Pokemon-GX are the GX attacks, attacks so powerful you can only use them once per game. 

So what does Primarina-GX offer? Well she's got the power of Bubble Beat, a 2-for-10 hit that does 20 more damage for every Water Energy in play on your field. That's a decent attack in its own right, but right now it's a little bit slow outside of combining with Gyarados-EX and other quick forms of Energy acceleration. Still if the Water type is going to get support in the future, you can bet they'll get an accelerator of some kind to rapidly boost their power, and given Steam Siege brought out Volcanion decks to the top - a group of Fire cards, I might add - Primarina-GX seems like she's got a strong future...in theory. 

Her second attack isn't anything to scoff at either. Roaring Seas is a 4-for-120 hit that gives a free discard of any Energy off your opponent's Active Pokemon. Dealing a powerful punch AND forcing the opponent to use more resources to power them back up to full again? YES PLEASE!! Never underestimate what discarding a single Energy can do - that's a KO on DCE or Rainbow Energy! But what may really convince you to give her a try is her GX attack. Normally these GX moves deal a lot of damage all at once or have a powerful effect. Primarina-GX's Grand Echo GX is the latter form, and it's effectively a Max Potion for everything you've got - for only 2 Energy.  

So now you've got a 250 HP Water behemoth that can 1) hit hard with the right set-up, 2) discard Energies your opponent has to keep them using resources, and 3) have access to a move that can completely refresh all your opponent's progress and give you a decisive advantage. Which, might I add, currently has access to Dive Ball and Archie's Ace-in-the-Hole to support her more. What's not to like? Well, it depends on a couple of factors. GX still have to evolve from their predecessors, so unless Rare Candy rulings allow you to skip a Stage and hit the GX Stage 2 (which it should, all things considered), it might be a bit tough to play Primarina-GX in the first place. On top of that, Grand Echo GX can only help you so much, and we've been in a format of heavy-duty 2HKOs for the most part - it wouldn't be worth it to spend a turn recovering everything if your opponent just sweeps you up anyway the next. Roaring Seas may be powerful, but you've gotta really make that discard count, and Bubble Beat...well, I did say they need some acceleration. 

Despite all these flaws, I still think Primarina-GX is one of the best examples of a powerful card in the new set, and I'm hoping that there will be a major breakthrough on how to use her to the fullest - as I do with every GX that makes it on this list! Naturally she wouldn't be the only one! 


Standard: 4/5 (despite a few hiccups in the plan, Primarina-GX is a diamond in the rough) 

Expanded: 4.5/5 (and with all the support surrounding them, I'm sure the GX will have their own impact on the game) 

Limited: 5/5 (personally, I'm a fan of this new mechanic - it's like the best parts of EX mixed with the limitations of evolutions! It's what makes them relevant again!) 

Arora Notealus: Primarina is also admittedly my starter of choice in Generation 7. Just gotta love that Oceanic Operatta move. Don't worry, Tobias, I don't care that you're a guy Primarina - you do you, man. 

Next Time: The GX are coming! Spanning across the eons of space and mind!...wait that doesn't sound right...


At last, it is time to countdown the top 10 cards of Sun & Moon, as determined by the aggregate efforts of aroramage, Zach, and myself!  As usual, each reviewer submitted his own personal top 10 list, and the results were averaged out to produce the list we are actually using.  Reprints were not permitted for the list; we already know a card like Ultra Ball is good (and actually pretty hard to top)! 

Our 10th place finisher is Primarina-GX (Sun & Moon 42/149).  A new set means the metagame is going to be even less stable than usual, so take what I write with an even larger grain of salt than normal.  We will start with its status as a Pokémon-GX, because much like with Pokémon-EX, it is too easily acknowledged without actual understanding; the only things mechanically guaranteed are giving up an extra Prize when KO’d (just like a Pokémon-EX) and possession of a GX attack.  The former is important for properly evaluating everything else on the card while the latter is important because, as the shiny new gimmick, GX attacks are also a new resource to be managed.  Whether they prove awesome, awful, or something in between one must remember you still have to meet all requirements (Energy or otherwise) to use your GX attack, and that it is a one and done thing; the reason we have a GX marker is because you cannot reset this effect the way you can many other attack effects.  Also, if you copy a GX attack in any way (Ability, attack, etc.) it still counts as using your GX attack for the game (even if you copied the GX attack with a non-GX attack).  Everything else about being a Pokémon-GX, so far, is suggested only by comparing what we have to their regular and/or Pokémon-EX counterparts.  Seems like the HP boost is more substantial (at least +50 versus the highest regular version).  So far, the only specific reference to Pokémon-GX I recall seeing is one that prevents a potent attack from affecting them. 

The Water Type still has access to the same support it had prior to Sun & Moon, as well as the same counters; if there was something explicitly for or against them in the new set, I completely overlooked it.  The Water Type has done pretty well for itself; certain pieces of support, be it restricted to [W] Pokémon, [W] Energy, or both have been competitive in both formats, as well as certain cards that can work with just about anything, but naturally favor the Water Type.  Some of their best Pokémon are Expanded only, however, and much of their best bits are in the form of stuff that can work off Type like Keldeo-EX and Seismitoad-EX.  Effects that explicitly call out [W] Pokémon and/or Energy aren’t so great, with the main exception being Parallel City; causing a [W] Type Pokémon to do 20 less damage usually isn’t a big deal, but that same damage reduction applies to [G] and [R] Types and the other side of the card caps your Bench size at three.  As such, it is likely to be encountered.  Fire Types are almost all Water Weak, and so far all the new ones have been as well.  Water Weak Fighting Types haven’t shown up yet in the SM releases, but that is probably because we only have a single set, and they were not overly numerous in either the BW- or XY-eras.  Water Resistance still appears to be an artifact of the BW-era, where it shows up on a chunk of the Grass Type but nowhere else.

Primarina-GX is a Stage 2 Pokémon, so it takes extra space in your deck when compared to most other Stages, and likewise takes more time to hit the field.  There are a few shortcuts available, but of them (Archie’s Ace in the Hole, Rare Candy, and Wally), I believe only Rare Candy to be worthwhile, and I would still include at least one (preferably two, maybe even three) Brionne in case of Item lock or just uncooperative draws.  No matter how useful or sturdy Primarina-GX may be, not only does being a Stage 2 eat up more resources and take more time, but it creates a potential Achilles’ heel: denying Evolutions by taking out their smaller lower Stages is a tactic that dates all the way back to the Base Set!  Your opponent has an incentive to do this because Primarina-GX has an immense 250 HP, the same as Wailord-EX (and still the most we’ve seen printed on a card so far).  OHKO’s against that much HP are possible, but rarely something a deck can pull of rapidly, repeatedly, and reliably.  You even have a solid chance of surviving the second hit.  Besides some of the best offensive focused decks, the big exception to Primarina-GX surviving a hit is its Grass Weakness, though with 250 HP it still has a decent squeaking through and surviving a hit.  With this set giving us some potent Grass Types that already have (still unproven but probable) decks, I would expect at least a few match-ups where Primarina-GX isn’t all that sturdy.  Lack of Resistance is typical, and but not crippling; more a missed opportunity than anything else.  The Retreat Cost of [CC] isn’t good but neither is it bad; paying it over and over again would be, though, so pack at least a few alternatives to manually retreating (either at all or at full price). 

No Ability for Primarina-GX, so onto its three attacks.  First up is “Bubble Beat” for [CC]; the attack does 10 damage plus 20 per [W] Energy attached to your in play Pokémon.  Second is “Roaring Seas” for [WWWC], which does 120 damage and discards an Energy from the opponent’s Active. The third and final attack is this card’s GX attack, “Grand Echo-GX”; for [CC] you may heal all damage from all of your Pokémon.  Bubble Beat can either be a lead into Roaring Seas or a deck focus in its own right; similar attacks on Darkrai-EX (XY: BREAKpoint 74/122, 118/122), M Gardevoir-EX (XY: Primal Clash 106/160, 156/160; Generations RC31/RC32), and Xerneas BREAK have lead to decks; Darkrai-EX, in particular, is quite the force.  Roaring Seas isn’t thrilling, as for four Energy, I want my Stage 2 taking a Prize, not setting up for a 2HKO.  The Energy discard does improve your odds of landing the second hit, but I find it better for Energy discarding attacks to be inexpensive, and big attacks to focus more on big damage.  Grand Echo-GX provides a level of healing that normally requires a hefty cost… and it has one here; while [CC] is quite affordable, this is your GX attack.  It could be used on significant disruption or outright damage, but Primarina-GX focuses on the often ineffective tactic of healing.  With its HP, you have good odds of barely surviving an attack and so wiping away many damage counters, but that only really helps if you include other cards to make sure your opponent cannot just hit you that hard again the next turn.  The fact that it heals all of your Pokémon in play sounds great as well, but once again it isn’t that practical; how likely are you to have a lot of damage spread out among several targets?  It happens, but not often. 

As usual, let us take a look at our options for lower Stages and alternate Evolutions.  Popplio can be SM: Black Star Promos SM03 or Sun & Moon 39/149, while Brionne is only available as Sun & Moon 40/149.  There is also Primarina (Sun & Moon 41/149), the regular counterpart to Primarina-GX.  All are Water Type Pokémon with Grass Weakness, no Resistance, and no Ability.  Both Popplio are Basic Pokémon with Retreat Cost [C].  SM: Black Star Promos SM03 has 60 HP and for [W] can use “Sing” to afflict your opponent’s Active with Sleep, while Sun & Moon 39/149 sports 70 HP and can use “Pound” for [W] or “Water Gun” for [WC] to do 10 and 20 damage, respectively.  You really should never attack with Popplio, in fact, you’ll hopefully just Bench it and then Evolve ASAP.  As such, inflicting Sleep is better for your desperate situation, and that +10 HP probably only matters then as well; use whichever version you prefer.  Brionne is a Stage 1 with 90 HP and Retreat Cost [CC].  Its two attacks are “Wave Splash”, costing [WC] and doing 30 damage, and “Disarming Voice”, costing [WWC] and doing 50 damage while Confusing the opponent’s Active.  Once again, filler, though not absolutely awful filler.  Primarina sports a solid 150 HP (for a Stage 2); this is enough surviving one attack is a little more likely than not, and means being a Pokémon-GX gave Primarina-GX a sizable 100 HP bonus.  For [WC] Primarina can use Disarming Voice as well, this time doing 30 damage but still confusing the opponent’s Active.  [WWC] pays for “Sparking Aura” which does 100 damage while healing 30 damage from itself.  For the third time, this is filler; not the kind that is so flawed it is worthless, but unless we get some serious GX counters, you can stick with Primarina-GX. 

So how should you use Primarina-GX?  I have not seen any decks featuring it yet, but that isn’t too unusual given that the set is still quite new.  I have heard of some, though they are in speculative threads and again, to be fair, that is true of most anticipated new archetypes spawned by this Sun & Moon.  The first, and I believe less likely, of the two ideas is to focus primarily, perhaps exclusively, on stalling with this card’s immense HP.  There was a successful stall/mill deck built around Wailord-EX, and this hypothetical deck takes inspiration from it.  Possibly some Energy would be included for the occasional Bubble Beat or (more likely) a Grand Echo-GX for surprise healing.  Wailord-EX decks actually still have adherents or at least curious experimenters; that includes in the Standard Format as Wailord-EX did not rotate (only some of its admittedly important support).  I haven’t been overly impressed by it yet, and the reason I label a Primarina-GX deck aping its strategy is simple: what does Primarina-GX have that Wailord-GX doesn’t?  A one-use-only healing attack that means you’ll have to run Energy?  The need to Evolve?  The inability to make use of Fighting Fury Belt?  Just seems like someone looking for a stall/mill deck should stick with Wailord-EX. 

Okay, so what about idea number two?  Employing similar tricks to other decks that can hit harder the more of a specific Energy is in play, one focuses on Bubble Beat.  Instead of Darkness or Fairy Type support, you can use Water Type tricks.  It takes longer for Primarina-GX to hit the field, but these decks usually need time to set up anyway, so you can toss up a worthwhile opener before changing gears to Primarina-GX.  I still have concerns, though; as a Stage 2 Primarina-GX takes as much deck space as M Gardevoir-EX (Gardevoir-EX, M Gardevoir-EX, Gardevoir Spirit Link) and takes a minimum of two turns to hit the field.  It needs three Energy to use its attack but can tap Mega Turbo for Energy acceleration.  A good thing to note is that the M Gardevoir-EX in question is perhaps the least successful of the three noteworthy versions of this kind of attacker I mentioned earlier. Xerneas BREAK is a pseudo-Stage 1 that can Evolve from the Energy accelerating Xerneas (XY 96/146; XY: Black Star Promos XY05; XY: Steam Siege 81/114).  Darkrai-EX has Yveltal (XY 78/146; XY: Black Star Promos XY06; Generations RC16/RC32; XY: Steam Siege 65/114) for Energy acceleration, Yveltal (XY: BREAKthrough 94/162) to disrupt opposing decks, or can just take the lead itself with the right combo.  Without a few turns of setting up, Darkrai-EX won’t hit very hard, but you can build your next attacker while it is doing so, and Fighting Fury Belt bumps it up to 210 HP.  The big thing to understand is that out of all of these, Primarina-GX has the least going for it except its HP; M Gardevoir-EX is used alongside the other M Gardevoir-EX (XY: Steam Siege 79/114, 112/114) and/or Xerneas BREAK but I don’t know of something similar that can work so well alongside Primarina-GX, and when compared to Darkrai-EX, you’ll have something with more HP, but slower and with less room for Energy (and cards in general). 

Primarina-GX isn’t a card I expect to use in Standard or Expanded play, though I imagine it would be quite epic for Limited.  You’ll need Popplio and Brionne, and the fickleness of assembling a Stage 2 is usually worse here, but everything about the entire line is better, including Primarina (Sun & Moon 41/149), which does make sense to include here, even if it means you have more Stage 2 forms than Evolving Basic and/or Stage 1 forms.  The thing to watch out for is the abundant amount of Grass Pokémon; those more offensively inclined are one of the few things that can quickly wipe out that 250 HP. 


Standard: 1.75/5 

Expanded: 1.5/5 

Limited: 3.5/5 

Summary: Primarina-GX does have some real positives, but almost all have a negative canceling it out, with the net result not being neutral.  High HP but Weakness to what will likely be heavily played Type (Grass), at least while this set is still all fresh and new.  An attack that follows a proven formula, but on a Stage that eats up some of the space needed to support it, another attack that is using a strategy meant for something less expensive, and a GX-attack that might wipe out a massive amount of damage on your side of the field, but probably just delays your opponent by a single turn. 

Primarina-GX did not make my own top 10, as you’ve gathered by now.  We’ll see if it gets the last laugh if goes on to be something big, especially if it is an idea I just got done saying won’t work.  Primarina-GX earned nine voting points, which allowed it to tie with both our eighth and ninth place finishers.  Perhaps also illuminating is that 11th place was one point away from making it a four-way tie.  On the other side of things, there is a tie for sixth and seventh place, so Primarina-GX was one point away from making that into a three-way tie instead.

Zach Carmichael
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