Alolan Ninetales
Alolan Ninetales

Alolan Ninetales
– Team Up

Date Reviewed:
April 21, 2020

Ratings Summary:
Standard: 2.00
Expanded: 2.00
Limited: See below

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

Reviews Below:

vince avatar

Alolan Ninetales from SM Team Up is an alternate typed card, something the Sun & Moon series has produced. Think of it as a card that does the exact same thing, but being a different type than the original. Sadly, that doesn’t consider to be a reprint at all.

Anyways, today’s card is an incarnation of the original Alolan Ninetales from SM Burning Shadows, which is everything that card does albeit being a Water type while today’s card is a Fairy Type. Aurora Beam is filler regardless if it cost YCC or WCC, but the most important part of the card is it’s ability, Luminous Barrier, which prevents all effects and damage done to this Pokémon from Pokémon-EX and Pokémon-GX. When Alolan Ninetales debuted in Burning Shadows, it didn’t instantly saw play. Some would say that Garbodor’s Garbotoxin was still in the format (which was XY BreakThrough onwards at the time) and/or Alolan Ninetales was a Stage 1, thus not being able to be put right away, even with Alolan Vulpix’s free Beacon attack to fetch for Pokémon. Conversely, if your opponent didn’t have an answer against Luminous Barrier, then you might actually auto-win, as long as your opponent didn’t use Guzma to switch your Alolan Ninetales for something else (Water type Alolan Ninetales and Guzma happen to be in the same set).

Today’s card can continue to fend off against Pokémon-EX and Pokemon-GX, but is another one of those cards where it falls victim to being outdated. Even though Luminous Barrier can wall against GX Pokemon (Tag Team or not), it DOES NOT protect you from Pokémon-V, so it will still be damaged from that mechanic. Because of that, Alolan Ninetales’s usefulness is limited, and none of the Alolan Vulpix cards in Standard do anything to help contribute the evolutionary line. For what is worth, I don’t think it would be feasible to use a wall because decks often diversify running both Pokémon-GX, Pokemon-V, both, or not at all. And even though it does almost the same thing as the water type counterpart, today’s card is NOT part of any theme deck.


Standard: 2/5 (if we reviewed this card a year ago, it might have potential to be a 2.5/5 or even a 3/5)
Expanded: 2/5 (the amount of stuff it can defend against is eventually going to be a small fraction of the entire card pool, and the card pool continues to expand with new expansion coming out every three months on average.)
Limited: 3/5 (If you ran into a +39 deck with a lone Pokémon-GX, then it is an auto-win. Otherwise, it seems underpowered.)

Otaku Avatar

There are many things you can tell about today’s card at a glance.  Alolan Ninetales (SM – Team Up 111/118) is a Fairy Type, which is no longer a distinct Type in Sword & Shield; instead, they’re represented as part of the Psychic Type.  Dragon Types from the XY and Sun & Moon series are [Y] Weak, like Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX.  Nothing is [Y] Resistant, and they have access to useful cards such as Diantha and the Fairy Charm series… but as we’ll see, these may not matter much to this Alolan Ninetales.  As the name of the card tells you, it is an Alolan Pokémon; they actually have a tiny bit of support (with no counters), but the support never really amounted to anything.

Alolan Ninetales is a Stage 1 Pokémon; not as fast or efficient as being a Basic, but still pretty reasonable to work into a deck, whether as support or the focus.  110 HP is low enough that not only is Alolan Ninetales unlikely to survive a hit, but it means the [M] Weakness won’t matter as much… because Alolan Ninetales is already in OHKO range before it.  It also means the lack of [D] Resistance mostly matters because it proves I’ve been wrong for quite some time about it being universal to [Y] Types.  The Retreat Cost of [C] is good and low, though not quite perfect.

Alolan Ninetales has one Ability and one attack.  “Luminous Barrier” prevents all effects of attacks, including damage, done to this Pokémon by your opponent’s Pokémon-EX and Pokémon-GX.  Before Pokémon V, this was quite the magnificent Ability; while there were multiple strong, non-EX/GX attackers, an under-prepared (let alone unprepared) deck could be effectively walled by this card.  It is still good now, though it will weaken as Pokémon V supplant Pokémon-GX.  If pure stall wasn’t your goal, then the attack became relevant; [YCC] pays for “Aurora Beam” to do 80 damage.  A bit low for the Energy but forgivable given the Ability, and being mostly Colorless; important for splashing it into off-Type decks and taking advantage of certain forms of Energy acceleration.

This card evolves from Alolan Vulpix, and we actually have some solid options here- I won’t be mentioning the ones that aren’t.  Alolan Vulpix SM – Guardians Rising 21/145, 21a/145; Shiny Vault SV8/SV94) was a good opener for a while, due to its first attack, letting you search your deck for up to three Pokémon at a cost of [0].  Now it is Expanded-only, so it may not be worth it.  Alolan Vulpix (SM – Lost Thunder 53/214) has an Ability that lets it Retreat for free if you have any [Y] Types in play; I’d rather it just had a free Retreat, but it is still works.  Alolan Vulpix (SM – Cosmic Eclipse 39/236) has an Ability that prevents it from taking damage from attacks while on your Bench; I’m thinking this is the best option for Standard, and possibly Expanded.

Alolan Ninetales (SM – Burning Shadows 28/147) is the exact same as today’s card except it is a [W] Type, and is only legal in the Expanded Format.  It was part of more than one competitive deck while Standard-legal, and might be worth running in addition to or instead of today’s Alolan Ninetales in Expanded, if the deck supports [W] Types better or just wants a [W] Type attacker.  I actually thought it was today’s subject, even though I’m the one who picked today’s card!  It has the same stats as today’s Alolan Ninetales, except it is still [D] Resistant.  It only has an attack, though; for [0] it’s “Rubbish Blizzard” can do 10 damage per Pokémon Tool in your discard pile.  While I like these kinds of attacks, the damage output seems too low for the current metagame.

Alolan Ninetales isn’t part of a branching evolution line in the video games, but it is in the TCG, thanks to the Pokémon-GX mechanic.  Alolan Ninetales-GX (SM – Guardians Rising 22/145, 132/145, 150/145; Shiny Vault SV53/SV94) was a competitive attacker during the early part of its Standard-Format run, and as recently as Korean League Season 1 (December 14, 2019) it was in a deck that finished fourth, but it was a Mewtwo & Mew-GX deck running it just to copy its attacks.  Alolan Ninetales-GX (SM – Lost Thunder 132/214, 205/214, 225/214) hit it big for a bit due to its Ability that searches your deck for two Item cards when you evolve into it.  It isn’t used as much anymore, but was part of the Zacian ADP build that took 5th-place at the Perth, Australia Regional Championship held on March 14, 2020.

So… there are some opportunities for today’s Alolan Ninetales to work alongside its kin, but how about on its own?  You literally could run just it, skipping even Alolan Vulpix, if you’re running and can spare Ditto {*}, but the actual examples I have of it do include the entire line, though sometime as thin as a 1-1.  I didn’t go back through the entire history of the 2019-2020 Format, but what I did find was it performing decently in a variety of stall decks prior to Sword & Shield.  It is clearly on the decline now, and Twin Energy (because it might make more single-Prize attackers viable) and more Pokémon V (because they’re replacing Pokémon-GX) don’t bode well for Alolan Ninetales.

Alolan Ninetales suffers all the same problems in Expanded as in Standard, and then some.  Abilities are a bit easier to counter here, so Luminous Barrier isn’t as reliable of protection even when facing Pokémon-EX/GX.  Hoopa (Shining Legends 55/73); it’s “Scoundrel Guard” Ability works the same as Luminous Barrier, it’s “Super Psybolt” attack also does 80, for a similarly priced [DCC], but it is a Basic [D] Type.  [Y] Typing is actually handy for exploiting Weakness in Expanded right now, but being a Darkness Type ain’t bad and being a Basic is the best… unless you want to run something like Silent Lab at the same time.

I doubt you’ll have a lot of chances to play in a Limited Forma event using SM – Team Up packs, but it isn’t impossible and Alolan Ninetales is a nice pull as it is a decent, splashable Stage 1 attacker in addition to countering an opponent’s lucky Pokémon-GX pull… except this set contains no Alolan Vulpix!  There are Limited Format events that mix packs, so if run alongside a set that has Alolan Vulpix and you pull both, go for it unless you can run a Mulligan deck instead.  I’ll be scoring based on the assumption you’re just using SM – Team Up packs, however.


  • Standard: 2/5
  • Expanded: 2/5
  • Limited: 1/5 (No Alolan Vulpix)

Alolan Ninetales wishes we would have reviewed it sooner, because its Standard score would have been a full one-out-of-five points higher.  Instead, we’re looking at it right as its protection begins to crack due to the changing card pool and metagame.  Its Luminous Barrier can still protect it – and thus you – from some very strong attackers, but there will be more and more match-ups where it won’t matter just because your opponent won’t be attacking with a Pokémon-GX, but a Pokémon V or maybe just a newer, slightly stronger single-Prize Pokémon.

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