– Lost Thunder
January 8, 2019
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Today, we’re looking at Sceptile-GX from Sun & Moon Lost Thunder. Sceptile-GX is another card that recycled tricks from the past. One of Garchomp’s (BW Dragons Exalted 90/124) attacks have been reused. Garchomp’s Mach Cut does 60 damage for F and also discards a Special Energy card from the Defending Pokemon; Sceptile-GX does the same albeit costing a single Grass energy. Perhaps the next most important thing about Garchomp and Sceptile-GX is their Stage 1 forms. Gabite (BW Dragons Exalted 89/124) has an ability called Dragon Call, which lets you grab a dragon Pokémon from your deck into your hand. Grovyle from Lost Thunder also reuses this trick by renaming it Sunshine Grace, which lets you search your deck for a Grass Pokemon and put it onto your hand. Those abilities allowed Gabite and Grovyle to be more consistent and does not rely on using Rare Candies or various “Ball” cards to search for Pokémon. Besides using its ability to fetch their own Stage 2 forms, you can also use it to fetch other Pokémon until you eventually decide to evolve it. Despite dealing with Ability lock, not having to rely on too many items would mean they won’t get punished heavily from Garbodor’s Trashalanche attack. Gabite and Garchomp are not overly competitive, however, and are not currently significant to the competitive Expanded Format, at least according to a quick search of recent tournament results.
This bodes well for Sceptile-GX, as the metagame is not much different now compared to when Garchomp was briefly successful, though it’s G typing would’ve mattered even more if Forest of Giant Plants wasn’t banned, but it is; Sceptile-GX would’ve easily come out on the first turn of the game; it would be insane to have a pack of Grovyle potentially fetching 4 Grass Pokemon, ready to evolve it ASAP! Even the partners associated with Garchomp can be said the same for Sceptile-GX. I’ve already mentioned Grovyle which can fetch Pokémon. Another partner that helped Garchomp was Altaria (BW Dragons Exalted 84/124, BW Black Star Promos 48, BW Boundaries Crossed 152/149), whose Fight Song ability makes Dragon Pokemon deal 20 more damage before applying Weakness and Resistance. Which was pretty huge back then; Mach Cut backed with at least two Altaria can wipe out all BW-era Dragon Pokemon due to being weak to Dragon, even with Eviolite! On the other hand, Sceptile-GX can benefit from the same, using Lurantis (SM Black Star Promos 25), providing Grass and Fire Pokemon the ability to deal 20 more damage to the Defending Pokemon before applying Weakness and Resistance. Garchomp’s 140 HP was sometimes alright, but can fall prey to multiple cards that are used simultaneously to secure the KO. Something like Darkrai-EX’s Night Spear backed with Dark Claw, Hypnotoxic Laser, and Virbank City Gym will OHKO Garchomp.
Sceptile-GX has a much more impressive HP of 230, but is worth two prizes. As such it should be used more often than your other Pokémon. All weakness are risky, and the N Weakness possesses by Garchomp varied its severity. R weakness could potentially be safe or dangerous depending on how often older Fire decks are used, but is still an issue because again, Sceptile-GX is worth two prizes and has more HP: it has a greater chance of proving significant, instead of merely resulting in overkill. Sceptile-GX has no resistance even though its HP would likely have made it more significant (unless it was to a fringe type, the last time I saw Grass Pokémon with Water resistance was up until BW Legendary Treasures), but Garchomp didn’t have any resistance either. The retreat cost of one is good. Without Float Stone, the Sun & Moon format is nearly starving for something that was meant to retreat for free. Solgaleo-GX Ultra Road is the closest thing as it lets you switch Pokémon, but you’ll need the entire evolutionary line and some Rare Candies. Most trainer cards now reduce retreat cost, instead of eliminating it. While most are specific, Escape Board is the one that is versatile, as it reduces retreat cost of any Pokemon by one. This means Sceptile-GX can retreat for free with the Tool. With Mach Cut already mentioned, it has two other attacks. Leaf Cyclone costs GG for 130 damage, and you must move a Grass energy from this Pokémon to one of your Benched Pokemon. This helps conserve energies and even though Sceptile-GX would be left with one energy, it will still be able to use Mach Cut. Leaf Cyclone does combo well with another attack.
Jungle Heal GX costs G and heals all damage for each of your Pokemon that has any grass energies attached to it. With 230 HP, this GX attack could allow you to buy a turn or two. Any further healing can be dealt with Max Potion. Still a bit annoyed that they limit the scope of the effect – as a once-per-game deal it would be nice to also be able to heal all damage from all of your Pokemon instead of having to make your Pokemon have Grass energies attached to it. What happens when we put it all together? I think we have a Stage 2 Pokémon-GX trying to do the job of a baseline Stage 2. The good news? I think it does the job well enough that we’ll at least get one, potentially competitive deck out of it. The bad news? I’m not expecting much more than that, at least coexisting at the same time in Standard or Expanded. Being a Stage 2 can be a nuisance in the Limited Format as well; if you can pull the entire line, it is worth running in ANY deck that isn’t a +39 build. Grovyle at least has an ability that fetches your desired Stage 2 without having to rely on the top card of your deck, and Sceptile-GX’s attacks are pretty cheap while doing good damage. In the end, though, you have to deal with actually drawing into it or the few search cards you’ll have available, and you may be entirely out of luck if one of your evolution stages is prized.
Sceptile GX (LOT 22) slithered its way into the Pokemon TCG from the Lost Thunder expansion set. This Stage 2 230 HP Grass Pokemon has been the bane of my existence lately. Granted, I’ve been playing a ton of decks that rely heavily of Special Energy, but this card has been a lot better than I thought it was going to be. Mach Cut is a really good single attachment attack. How many other Pokemon out there have a one energy attack that does sixty damage and has a really good effect as well? 54% of decks on PTCGO are running SPE, so this attack will be very helpful more than half of the time.
Leaf Cyclone is a decent attack and is very functional. Considering it’s a two attachment attack, pushing one energy down to a Pokemon on your bench can ensure continuity in your offensive strategy. And Jungle Heal means that I push the concede button early on when I see Grovyle evolve to the GX and I’m playing spread.
I like baby Sceptile a little more than this card, but it definitely has a place in Grass decks. It can really make life difficult for Special Energy and spread decks.
Standard: 3 out of 5
Sceptile-GX (SM – Lost Thunder 22/214, 196/214, 216/214) is first and foremost a Pokémon-GX; yet it is obvious and yet haven’t we all had moments while building a deck or making a play where the only explanation for having done something stupid is we must have forgotten what that means? So, remember as we go through the rest of this card that it is worth an extra Prize when KO’d, is excluded from certain beneficial effects, and vulnerable to certain detrimental ones because it is a Pokémon-GX. Being a [G] Type is currently somewhat handy for exploiting [G] Weakness, which is currently showing up mostly on useful supporting Pokémon in Standard and on some deck foci in Expanded. Nothing is [G] Resistance except in the Unlimited Format, but in both the Expanded and Standard Formats there are some anti-[G] Pokémon effects and a few you might even encounter in competitive play. Most [G] Type support is in a similar boat, though overall the pros outweigh the cons; we’ll cover what I think really matters later.
Sceptile-GX is a Stage 2, which is a lot like its status as a Pokémon-GX except there aren’t a lot of effects that overtly punish this aspect of a card. Instead, the issue is that the game doesn’t do a good job of pacing itself, so needing at least one extra turn and two additional cards (and that is with the most obvious shortcut) is a high hurdle for most Stage 2 Pokémon to clear. Still, some Stage 2 Pokémon have proven quite successful, even recently, so it isn’t a dealbreaker. 230 HP isn’t record-setting for a Stage 2 Pokémon-GX; it is actually about normal, maybe 10 below what I’d expect and 20 below what I’d like but it is still quite sturdy when not being slammed by your Weakness. In this case, that’s [R] and that is one of the worse ones to have right now in either the Standard or Expanded Formats; expect it to matter at least one at any major event, and possibly several times. No Resistance is typical, even if it is technically the worst. A Retreat Cost of [C] isn’t uncommon, but it is usually easy to pay and recover from having paid.
Sceptile-GX has no Ability, but it does have two regular attacks and a GX-attack. “Mach Cut” for [G], which does 60 damage and discards a Special Energy if your opponent’s Active has any attached. “Leaf Cyclone” requires [GG] to swing for 130 damage, then forces you to move a [G] Energy from Sceptile-GX to one of your Benched Pokémon (unless you have none). “Jungle Heal-GX” requires only [G] to use and heals all damage from each of your Pokémon with at least one [G] Energy attached. All of these are Energy efficient in terms of printed costs, and the non-GX-attacks do good damage for the Energy invested. Many decks use Special Energy, and a few rely on it; they don’t like Mach Cut. Leaf Cyclone can also be a pain to fuel late-game, but before then you just attach to Sceptile-GX, attack, and then move the Energy to its intended final destination. Jungle Heal-GX tends to be useless or really good. The high points come from when Mach Cut slowed your opponent’s offense to a crawl, so you can take a turn off from attacking for damage to attack and heal Sceptile-GX OR because your opponent spread damage around your side of the board while you spread [G] Energy around as well due to attacking with Leaf Cyclone.
If you’re not impressed with Sceptile-GX yet you… are being shrewd. I’ve mentioned some good and some bad things about this card, but nothing that truly stands out. Sceptile-GX hasn’t exactly been tearing up the competitive scene but it decks using it did manage some adequate finishes shortly after both its Japanese and international releases. Augmenting what Sceptile-GX brings to the table is the rest of its “card family”. While our Treecko cards aren’t “good”, the Standard-legal options are not pure filler. Grovyle (SM – Lost Thunder 21/214) is actually a very good card for [G] decks, perhaps deserving of its own review thanks to its “Sunshine Grace” Ability that gives you a once per turn (per copy) search of your deck for a [G] Pokémon. Sceptile (SM – Celestial Storm 10/168) has an Ability which attacks by your opponent’s Ultra Beasts from doing damage to your Pokémon with any [G] Energy attached to them. While you cannot easily enjoy protection from Ultra Beasts, search for [G]Pokémon, and having a solid technical attacker all at once, there’s enough here to consider building a deck around it OR to try and work it into something else.
I haven’t tested any decks focused on Sceptile-GX, but what I have used is Alolan Exeggutor (SM – Forbidden Light 2/131, 2a/131) decks with a 2-2-1/1 line of Sceptile-GX/Sceptile. It isn’t as consistent as I like and the REAL disappointment is against Blacephalon-GX. Blacephalon-GX enjoys Weakness, but aren’t I running a Sceptile that lets anything I have with [G] Energy wall against Ultra Beasts? Therein lies the rub; you have to get the baseline Sceptile set up and protected ASAP. If not, it’s a Guzma away from being KO’d and its protection lost. Crushing Hammer, Girafarig (SM – Lost Thunder 94/214), and or Plumeria also spoil the strategy; no [G] Energy attached means anything can be KO’d, while Girafarig can then “banish” Treecko (or Sceptile itself) to the Lost Zone so you cannot just attempt to put it into play again. Alolan Exeggutor isn’t fond of Girafarig, either, as its attack’s damage is fueled by having up to five different Types of basic Energy in its discard pile. I have not tested the deck in Expanded, unfortunately. My Theorymon is that, for all the help it and the deck I just described receive, other cards do it better. As long as your deck can run heavy on basic Grass Energy, do run Sceptile-GX in the Limited Format. The damage/healing is just that much better here.
Sceptile-GX does a lot but whether as the center of its own deck (which I’ve heard of but not seen) or working with something like Alolan Exeggutor, its good but far from great. It has enjoyed a tiny bit of success, but the credit needs to go to its partners as much or more than itself… and that is just for the Standard Format.
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