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Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day


Alolan Sandslash
- S&M: Guardians Rising - #SM18

Date Reviewed:
July 11, 2017

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Standard: 2.75
Expanded: 2.50
Limited: 4.17

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

Back to the main COTD Page


Alright, time for a quickie. 

Alolan Sandslash is AWESOME as Ice/Steel. Sure he's got a bunch of weaknesses, but he's got a lot more resistances! 

Smash Turn can get him out of the Active spot, but at 3-for-50, it doesn't do much damage, and it uses up your attack rather than you just switching things around for ease.  

Slush Rush is the Ability that would get him noticed, as it lets you get a free draw each turn. This can be useful, combined with other draw cards, and if we lose powerful draw support like Professor Sycamore, he may become the primary means of getting cards faster, making Water decks in particular the more consistent decks in the format. However, the best thing about using this Ability is stacking it on top of itself, as only drawing 1 extra card each turn only goes so far. 

Alolan Sandslash will see play. Keep that in mind. 


Standard: 3/5 (draw power is good) 

Expanded: 2.5/5 (though the extra Stage 1 cards for that extra draw each turn is debatable) 

Limited: 4/5 (don't underestimate the power of draw) 


Next Time: ALOLAN SANDSLASH IS FREAKING COOOOOOOOL...oh, hey, there's a tree in the way.


Alolan Sandslash (Guardians Rising, 20/145) debuts in the game from the Guardians Rising expansion set.  A 110 HP Stage 1 Water Pokemon, Alolan Sandslash has the rare ability to allow you to draw a card once per turn.  Immediately, this commands comparisons to the few other Pokemon in the meta right now that have very similar abilities: Octillery (Breakthrough, 33/162) and Oranguru (Sun & Moon, 113/149).  Here’s a little chart I came up with to kind of identify the pros and cons of each Pokemon:


I had a column in there for Level Ball (Ancient Origins, 76/98) searchable, but as Level Ball will rotate out of Standard in a little more than a month, I decided to remove that as a point of comparison.

I think most of us would agree that Octillery will get the most number of cards.  For every card Oranguru generates, Octillery by definition will draw two more than that.  Sandslash, although it will definitely draw you a card every turn, almost certainly will not draw as many even as Oranguru, as many decks that play Oranguru or Octillery run many “insta-play” item cards, such as Ultra Ball (Sun & Moon, 135/149) or Acro Bike (Primal Clash, 122/160) that will keep their hand at a minimal number so as to maximize the draw from Oranguru or Octillery.

However, we must also compare the three Pokemon through the prism of Garbodor (Guardians Rising, 51/145) and its Trashalanche attack.  Which of these three Pokemon will put the least number of items in the discard pile in order to get their abilities on line?  Although Oranguru or Octillery may generate you the maximum number of cards, unless you’re using Item cards to help clear your hand, you’re probably not going to be able to draw a whole lot of cards through their abilities.  A Garbodor sensitive deck – one that runs minimal Item cards and plays more Stadiums, Supporters, and even Pokemon to offset the reduced usage of items – might benefit more from Alolan Sandslash, which will get you a card every turn regardless of how many cards you are holding.

The downside remains, however, for all three Pokemon that you can only put five Pokemon on your bench (Sky Field (Roaring Skies, 89/108) also rotates out at the end of August), and putting Pokemon on your bench to generate card draws can limit your ability to play other supporter Pokemon (Tapu Lele GX (Guardians Rising, 60/145) being the most prominent) or back up attackers.


Standard: 2 out of 5


So what’s the answer here?  Which of the three is the best?  I think it just comes down to what type of deck you’re playing.  If you’re playing a deck where you’re counting your item cards, Sandslash could very well be the best play.  If you’re playing the type of deck where you don’t care how many item cards you play, you don’t care if Garbodor one shots you, Octillery probably is the way to go.  If you’re afraid of the late game N (Fates Collide, 105/124), Oranguru will prevent your opponent from stealing a game away from you when you only have a prize card or two remaining.  All three have their pros and cons, but since the advent of Guardians Rising, we haven’t seen much play from Sandslash.  Since the Seattle Regionals, in the Masters Division, Oranguru has been played in 6 of the top 32 decks (twice in Seattle, three times in Madison, and once at Indy), and Octillery was run in 4 of the top 32 decks (three in Birmingham and one in Indy).  Alolan Sandslash has not been played in any top eight deck in the Masters Division since it became Standard legal.


Today’s attempt at an abridged review is Alolan Sandslash (SM: Black Star Promos SM18; SM: Guardians Rising 20/145), a Stage 1 Water-Type with 110 HP, Metal Weakness, lack of Resistance, Retreat Cost [CC], an Ability, and an attack.  The Ability is “Slush Rush”, which allows you to draw a card once per turn before you attack.  The attack is “Smash Turn” which costs [WCC], does 50 damage, and then switches itself with one of your Benched Pokémon.  Its only Evolution option is Alolan Sandshrew (SM: Guardians Rising 19/145), a Basic, Water-Type Pokémon with 60 HP, Metal Weakness, no Resistance, Retreat Cost [C], and two attacks.  The first is “Defense Curl” for [0], which has you flip a coin and (if heads) prevents all damage done to Alolan Sandshrew by attacks during your opponent’s next turn.  For [WCC] Alolan Sandshrew can use “Ice Ball” to do 30 damage.  The powers-that-be keep pumping out more Water Type support and useful Pokémon plus hitting Water Weakness is still competitively relevant thanks to Volcanion-EX and a few others.  Being a Stage 1 is still “fast enough” that it isn’t a serious drawback.  110 HP (and 60 on the Basic form) might be adequate due to the card effects but otherwise are (at best) mediocre.  The HP might mean the Metal Weakness won’t matter; current favorites like Metagross-GX don’t need it to score a OHKO.  Lack of Resistance is a pet peeve, but had it been here it probably wouldn’t have mattered.  The Retreat Cost on Alolan Sandslash is just barely high enough it might become a problem. 

Extra draw power is usually a good thing; a single card isn’t too likely to help on its own.  Good thing most decks pack plenty of draw power and if you can afford the deck/Bench space, Slush Rush does stack; an extra two to four cards does sound handy.  Smash Turn is overpriced or underpowered, but at least it only needs one Energy of a specific Type, so maybe you could use this to splash in a Water-Type attacker.  Remember manually retreating is less expensive, if only just.  Ice Ball is filler and also needs to cost less while doing a bit more, but if Alolan Sandshrew is stuck up front, I’m mostly concerned with it surviving to Evolve; Defense Curl isn’t reliable enough for me to call it “adequate”, but it is better than the usual filler.  The free cost to use it allows you to build a different attacker, which is good as I’ve already said Alolan Sandslash is not worth the Energy for attacking in most circumstances.  The big problem here is competition, though that may be addressed with rotation.  Besides big names like Shaymin-EX (XY: Roaring Skies 77/108, 106/108), Octillery (XY: BREAKthrough 33/162) is a better deal unless your deck both can and needs to build up and maintain a large hand size.  Check out the details on it here, but the short version is that it tends to match or surpass Alolan Sandslash in all areas currently relevant to play, including some odd things like how its 90 HP might actually be better than the higher 110 of Alolan Sandslash due to Level Ball usage when running one of these Pokémon off-Type.  Expanded play adds more competition for this role, while this is almost a must-run for Limited Format events. 


Standard: 3/5 

Expanded: 2/5 

Limited: 4.5/5 


It is probably best to look and think ahead with Alolan Sandslash; it seems like a miss or near miss in most categories, but I can’t help but think of similar past cards like Slurpuff (XY: Phantom Forces 69/119) and Donphan (BW: Plasma Storm 72/135), both of which seemed like duds at first but became part of strong decks after the right partners and/or future support released: Seismitoad-EX for Slurpuff and Strong Energy for Donphan, though that is oversimplifying.  I also realize Slurpuff only had a small window before Shaymin-EX replaced it, so one should still temper one’s expectations.  Which is why the Standard score ends up being a three out of five; Alolan Sandslash could go either way in the future.

Today we’re looking at Alolan Sandslash, which is a water type in the TCG instead of the usual fighting type.  It’s an interesting card, as it has something that we’ve haven’t seen in quite a long while.
Alolan Sandslash has an ability and an attack.  Smash Turn costs WCC for 50 damage and it switches this Pokemon with one of your benched Pokemon.  Useful to keep Alolan Sandslash from being up front waiting to be KOed.  But is there a reason to keep Alolan Sandslash alive to contribute anything?  Actually, there is!  It’s ability, Slush Rush, lets you draw a card once per turn.  It stacks, so if you have four of them, you get to draw four cards!  We’ve have seen such an effect before such as Noctowl’s Night Sight Poke Power (HGSS) and Crobat Plasma, but haven’t seen as much play.  Maybe it’s because drawing one card won’t get as far as player hoped it to be, or Crobat being a Stage 2 needs deck space just to draw a card.  Decks seem to use mass draw power from other cards such as dump your hand and draw seven in order to quickly get the cards they need to perform strategies on one turn.
Despite the environment having everything against this card, Slush Rush still provides a nice bonus of little draw power (better than nothing), and that will make Alolan Sandslash see some play.
Standard: 3/5 (Does a good job here)
Expanded: 3/5 (Stage 2 ability on a Stage 1? Yes please!)
Limited: 4/5 (draw power is welcomed here!)
Coming up: What’s blocking my way?!

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