Tapu Bulu – Battle Styles
Date Reviewed: May 1, 2021
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Tapu Bulu (SS Battle Styles 16/163) is a single prize, Basic Grass type with 130 HP, Fire weakness, a retreat cost of CC, and two attacks. Push Down costs G for 20 damage and makes your opponent switch their Active Pokemon with one of their Benched Pokemon. If your opponent doesn’t have any Benched Pokemon, they don’t have to switch. Nature’s Judgment costs GGC and deals 80 damage, and if you decide to discard all energies attached to it, then it does 80 more damage, totaling 160 damage.
So, I suppose Nature’s Judgment is one of the redeeming qualities of Tapu Bulu. Not to say that Push Down doesn’t have any use since it might be slightly helpful under certain circumstances. But if they retreat and/or switch their Pokémon, then it seems kinda pointless for Push Down, other than having them use up some of their resources. Nature’s Judgment (that specific attack name) was first seen on Landorus-EX, but I don’t recall seeing much older cards that does a similar thing. However, Landorus-EX was used mostly for its Hammerhead attack because it was a respectable attack at the time, costing a single fighting energy for 30 damage AND doing 30 damage to one of your opponent’s Benched Pokemon. Coupled with external damage boosting cards like Fighting Stadium, Strong Energy, and Muscle Band, it can fake being Darkrai-EX’s Night Spear attack! Nature’s Judgment did the same 80 plus 80, but since that attack costed FFC, and there weren’t many methods of accelerating Fighting energies, then that attack was rarely used. The same could’ve been said for Tapu Bulu if it didn’t have any partners.
Cherrim (SS Battle Styles 8/163) is one of those potential candidates to support Tapu Bulu, and it was reviewed as the 10th best card of Battle Styles. It’s Spring Bloom ability lets you attach Grass energies from your hand to your Pokémon as often as you like (except for Pokémon with Rule Boxes such as Pokémon-EX/GX/V). With that ability, going from zero to attacking is quite realistic. Although the discard cost hurts, as long as you have energy recursion cards like Energy Retrieval, then you might be able to attack again. Rillaboom (Sword & Shield 14/202, SWSH006, SS Shining Fates 13/72, SV006/122) is also another nice candidate even though it is a stage 2 and it has been reviewed once. It’s Voltage Beat ability lets you attach up to 2 grass energies from your deck to one of your Pokemon. With a manual attachment and one use of Voltage Beat, you could also go from zero into attacking. And instead of Energy Retrieval, you can use Energy Recycler to shuffle 5 basic energies from your discard pile onto your deck, giving you more more opportunities to repeatedly use Nature’s Judgement and replenish basic energies than the Cherrim/Energy Retrieval method. As such, I would personally use the Rillaboom/Tapu Bulu combo.
So, there are enough partners to work with, but the Grass type as a whole, isn’t doing as much favor. There’s already an anti-Grass card in the form of Bouffalant (SS Battle Styles 118/163) as its ability can let Bouffalant deal 60 extra damage to grass pokemon. Not to mention most of the Metal types in the Sword & Shield era naturally has a -30 resistance against Grass types, so Nature’s Judgment won’t be dealing 160 damage; it’ll deal just 130 damage instead, which is a 3HKO against Metal Pokemon V-MAX. Even if Nature’s Judgment’s damage output wasn’t reduced, it still falls short of 2HKOs against the biggest of VMAX Pokemon. Vitality Band can help secure clean 2HKOs elsewhere. Expanded has better cards than Vitality Band – such as Muscle Band and/or Fighting Fury Belt – that Tapu Bulu can benefit as well as Lurantis (SM Black Star Promos SM25) that can further boost damage output, but there are many more counters like ability denial.
Still, Tapu Bulu also reminded me of another Tapu Bulu card when I was looking up decks in Limitless. You can see a variety of deck lists from major tournaments around 2017-2018 regarding Tapu Bulu-GX. Most decklists feature Tapu Bulu-GX as one of the attackers (SM Black Star Promos SM32, SM Burning Shadows 130/147, 149/147, SM Hidden Fates Shiny Vault SV91/SV94). It’s a Pokemon-GX with three attacks, but one of them has the same Nature’s Judgment with the same attack cost. However, the damage is 120, plus 60 more if you discard all energies attached to it. Meanwhile, Horn Attack cost a single Grass energy for 30 damage and Tapu Wilderness GX costs the same attack cost of GGC for 150 damage while healing all damage from it. Based on the list of decks that I saw, it all comes down to how Tapu Bulu was used, and, so far, I see only two methods.
-Lurantis was used for its Sunny Day ability, which makes Grass and Fire types deal 20 extra damage to your opponent’s Active Pokemon. Lurantis-GX was also used alongside it maybe to accelerate grass energies via its Flower Supply attack. Sunny Day Lurantis was run around 1-2 copies, but that still supplemented Lurantis-GX and Tapu Bulu-GX’s damage output.
-Vikavolt from Sun & Moon was used for its Strong Charge ability in a similar manner to Rillaboom’s Voltage Beat, except that the energies it fetch can be attached to any of your Pokémon (1 Grass and 1 Lightning). While this seems like a odd type combination, it was enough to fuel up Nature’s Judgement, going from zero to attacking. Energy Recycler was also in those kind of decks.
Tapu Bulu-GX did enjoy its lifespan during those times, but seemed to have vanished from 2019 competitive play due to leaving Standard rotation and/or advent of TAG TEAMs whose HP scores are beyond the reach of Nature’s Judgment and that their attacks can OHKO Tapu Bulu-GX’s 180 HP. Those factors probably caused Tapu Bulu-GX to not see as much competitive play anymore. Could today’s card be enough to change things?
Maybe. Despite today’s Tapu Bulu doing 20 less damage than its GX counterpart, I think it could replace Tapu Bulu-GX in Expanded due to being a baseline pokemon and not having to deal with anti-GX counters. If you wanted to try replicating an older successful deck from format’s past, the closest thing you can make is probably Tapu Bulu/Rillaboom. There’s no Sunny Day equivalent of Lurantis nor the attack based energy acceleration in Standard, so you could only relieve one of the two roles Tapu Bulu-GX had performed in the past.
As there’s no pre-release tournament hosted, there’s no longer a score in Limited. However, if you were to buy a Build & Battle Box of Battle Styles, and you happen to obtain a pre-release promo of Cherrim, then a couple copies of non-holo version of Tapu Bulu is guaranteed to be in there as its part of the Cherrim group.
In older formats, Tapu Bulu would have at least some fighting chance to be a decent single prize beatstick, and there were many successful Tapu Bulu decks in the past. However, the changes made in the Pokémon TCG transitioning from the Sun & Moon series to the Sword & Shield series has made Grass types underwhelming no matter how hard they try. Tapu Bulu is kinda leaning to being a deck that can be functional because of its history, but those kinds of decks haven’t been placing well at remote tournaments, at least not yet successfully.
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