Are Tag-Team Pokemon Too Powerful? The Pros Weigh In

The world’s best players predict whether the new card type is going to be balanced or broken.

A new kind of Pokemon card called Tag Team GX was revealed during this past weekend’s Pokemon World Championships 2018, featuring mascot Pikachu fighting side-by-side with the legendary Zekrom. It’s not only a Basic Pokemon card with a whopping 240 HP but it packs a pair of powerful attacks that have the potential to end the game in a flash.

Take a gander:

Pikachu & Zekrom

For three Lightning Energy, Full Blitz hits for 150 damage — add a Choice Band for a 30 attack boost and it can knock out numerous Basic Pokemon GX with 180 HP, like Rayquaza GX and Necrozma GX.

The effect of Full Blitz puts three more Lightning Energy on Pikachu & Zekrom GX, allowing it to hit for a massive 200 damage on the next turn with its Tag Bolt GX attack. That 200 damage is enough to take down pretty much every playable GX in the format (although it may need a Choice Band for those just out of range, like the 210 HP Zoroark GX), and on top of that it can drop 170 damage on a benched Pokemon.

That secondary effect is crucial because virtually every competitive deck includes at least one copy of the 170 HP Tapu Lele GX, and players typically play them early to fetch setup Supporters, so it’s almost a guarantee there will be one on the bench when Tag Bolt GX goes off, allowing it to score two GX knockouts in one turn. When Pokemon GX are knocked out, they give up two Prizes, so that means Pikachu & Zekrom GX can take all six prizes in two turns, ending the game in short order.

The downside is that when a Tag Team GX Pokemon is knocked out, the opponent take three prizes. Regular Pokemon GX lose two Prizes, and now these double-sized Pokemon GX are even more risky to use.

But is this card really as powerful as it looks? We asked some top pro Pokemon TCG players to find out.

Stéphane Ivanoff (France)

Notable accomplishments: #4 ranked player in the world, 1st place at North American International Championships 2018, 1st place at Valencia Special Championships 2018

Stéphane Ivanoff was cautiously optimistic about the new card, but had some reservations about what it could mean for the future of the game.

“I worry that if there are cards that help it attack very fast, like Max Elixir and so on, due to its sheer power and number of HP, it can win the game by itself very fast,” Ivanoff said. “As long as it needs the support of Stage 2 Pokemon to accelerate energy, I think it could be fine, but I’m a bit worried we could enter a new phase of big Basics like Volcanion or Darkrai.”

Ivanoff’s rating: 7 out of 10

Ivanoff’s Pokemon Tag Team GX dream combo: Pachirisu and Garchomp, as a nod to Sejun Park who won the Pokemon VGC World Championships 2014 with this unexpected combination

Pablo Meza (Mexico)

Notable accomplishments: 1st place at Vancouver Regional Championships 2017, 7th place at World Championships 2017

Despite the flashy attacks, Pablo Meza thinks the card is balanced. He foresees Pikachu & Zekrom GX as a card that players use sparingly when the ideal situation presents itself.

“I envision that card being a one-of in an Electric Magnezone deck where you have that for the end game. You just hold onto it for as long as possible, you don’t start with it, and then at the right time when you can pull off putting six energy onto it, you do that and then out of the blue you can make a comeback or just win the game outright,” Meza explained.

Meza’s rating: 7 out of 10

Meza’s Pokemon Tag Team GX dream combos: Mew and Mewtwo, Gardevoir and Gallade

Michael Pramawat (USA)

Notable Accomplishments: 1st place European International Championships 2016, 3-time Regional Championships winner

Michael Pramawat is a Pokemon TCG veteran who recalls the first time two Pokemon were teamed up, but back then it was two separate cards that combined to make one big card — and weren’t often used by players.

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This time around, he sees Tag Team GX cards as a bit more viable. However, he cites how Basic Pokemon with lots of HP used to dominate the competitive scene, so he wants future Tag Team GX cards to follow in the footsteps of Pikachu & Zekrom GX and be a high risk, high reward play.

“The reason why big Basics were so powerful years ago were because of the low energy cost. It did a lot of damage for very few energy and it was hard to deal with that kind of cost efficiency, whereas [Pikachu & Zekrom GX] costs a lot of energy and does a lot of damage, but the energy kind of keeps it in balance,” Pramawat explained. “I would like to see a theme of Tag Team GX Pokemon being very powerful but very expensive to use.”

Pramawat’s rating: 7 out of 10

Meza’s Pokemon Tag Team GX dream combos: a ‘Squirtle Squad’ Squirtle with Kyogre

Exit Theatre Mode

Nathália Fernandes (Brazil)

Notable accomplishments: 1st place at Sao Paulo Regional Championships 2017

Even though Pikachu & Zekrom GX has a lot of HP, Nathália Fernandes isn’t very worried about it because of the popularity of Buzzwole — a Fighting-Type Pokemon that can exploit its weakness and deal double damage. Having 240 HP doesn’t mean much when, for example, a regular Buzzwole can attack with Sledgehammer while the opponent has four Prizes, doubling its 120 attack power to 240 and take down Pikachu & Zekrom GX in one hit. If the Pikachu & Zekrom GX player isn’t facing a Fighting-Type deck, then it’s a slightly different story, but Fernandes says that the three-Prize loss is still too steep a cost, at least for this Tag Team GX card.

Fernandes’ rating: 6 out of 10

Fernandes’ Pokemon Tag Team GX dream combo: Reshiram and Flareon

Tord Reklev (Norway)

Notable accomplishments: #1 ranked player in the World, 3-time International Championships winner

Tord Reklev says even though the new card looks interesting, it’s not very good. The main issue he points out is how after using Full Blitz, Pikachu & Zekrom GX will be a big target with six energies attached, which can be easily exploited by attacks like Tapu Lele GX’s Energy Drive. And while Reklev admits that powerful cards like this have the potential to make games fast and fun, he prefers cards that make for a longer, more strategic game.

“It looked kind of crazy,” Reklev said of when he first saw the card revealed. “I just hope they don’t make [Tag Team GX cards] too overpowered because EXs and GXs already shape the format so that it’s really fast. I think the more turns a game lasts, the more decisions you’re able to make, and the more decisions, the better players usually come out on top. … If they manage to make them not too overpowered, so for example, no cheap attacks that you can combo with things that heal them. That can be a big problem with big HP because they’ll never get knocked out. If they manage to balance them in the right way, they can be really cool.”

Reklev’s Pokemon Tag Team GX dream combo: Celebi and Espeon

Reklev’s rating: 5 out of 10

Overall, the pros we talked to gave Pikachu & Zekrom GX a rating of 6.4 out of 10. How would you rate the first of the new Tag Team GX cards? Let us know in the comments.

Love Pokemon? Check out what it’s like Inside Japan’s Pokemon-themed Trains, and don’t miss out on any other news from the 2018 Pokemon World Championships:

Joshua is Senior Editor of IGN Comics. If Pokemon, Green Lantern, or Game of Thrones are frequently used words in your vocabulary, you’ll want to follow him on Twitter @JoshuaYehl and IGN.

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