Today we are going to look at the recently retired Steel-type gym leader deck. Traditionally, Steel-types in the TCG have been designed to be more defensive, offering larger HP numbers or defensive abilities in exchange for heavier attack costs. In the sets released prior to Sun & Moon, one had to wonder if Pokemon forgot that they were a thing at all. When Bronzong (PHF 61) rotated out of the format, taking Aegislash EX with it, it became very difficult to construct a functional Steel deck. Gym Leader Joel rode a Mega Scizor EX deck about as long as anyone could stand (because M-Scizor really was not that interesting to play), patiently waiting for something else to come along. Luckily for him, gym leader challenges were not taking place very often during that time, so he did not have to take too many losses with the deck. Sun & Moon came along and gave Joel a gift in the form of the most offensive Steel pokemon that he had ever seen (and no, we’re not talking Hollywood-offensive, we mean capable of offense-offensive). Joel immediately turned this gift into a successful deck.
Solgaleo GX is an amazing card on level that was unprecedented at the time of its release. To start, Solgaleo GX has a whopping 250HP. Pokemon bolstered this huge stat by giving it two equally amazing attacks. The first is dubbed, “Sunsteel Strike”, which hits for 230 damage at the cost of discarding all energy (3 required) attached to Solgaleo GX. That is enough to take out almost every pokemon in the format. Add a “Choice Band” into the mix and the subsequent 260 damage can take all comers. AND… the mighty space lion does not stop there. Solgaleo GX also has one of the best GX attacks in the game. “Sol Burst GX” allows you, for a cost of one Steel energy, search your deck for five energy cards and attach them to anyone on your field, any way you like. To clarify, so that you grasp the significance of the attack (which we did not see initially), that’s five energy cards… meaning any type of Special Energy (DCE, Rainbow, Counter, etc) or any color of Basic Energy, or any mix of the above. The possibilities for using this attack are probably beyond what Gym Leader Joel can imagine, and he can imagine quite a bit (Snorlax GX, Yveltal EX, Mega Steelix EX, Darkrai EX, Xerneas BREAK, to name a few).
Solgaleo GX is still not done, because we haven’t made it around to its ability yet. “Ultra Road” allows you, once per turn, to switch your Active pokemon with one of your Benched pokemon. Solgaleo GX can use this to move another pokemon or itself, keeping you from getting “catcher-stalled” and for the most part, eliminating the need for “switching” cards like “Float Stone”, “Switch” or “Escape Rope”. The ability is stack-able, meaning if you have two lions in play, you can use the ability from each one. This again might not seem that great at first, but when you think about it in the context of attackers like Buzzwole GX, Volcanion EX or Lapras GX that all sport attacks that are limited to every other turn, it becomes a little more interesting. **Editor’s note: attack effects like, “This pokemon can’t attack during your next turn”, are reset when the pokemon that is subject to it, moves to the Bench and then back into the Active spot again in the same turn.**
Let’s look at the retired Steel-type gym deck list and then we’ll share its history and some of the different options that we’ve tested.
- 4 – Cosmog (SUM 64)
- 2 – Cosmoem (SUM 65)
- 4 – Solgaleo GX (SUM 89)
- 1 – Solgaleo (GRI 87)
- 1 – Magearna EX (STS 75)
- 2 – Registeel (CMI 68)
- 2 – Tapu Lele GX (GRI 60)
- 3 – Choice Band
- 4 – Ultra Ball
- 2 – Field Blower
- 2 – Super Rod
- 4 – Rare Candy
- 1 – Lillie
- 4 – N
- 4 – Professor Sycamore
- 3 – Guzma
- 1 – Brigette
- 2 – Skyla
- 1 – Hala
- 1 – Heavy Ball
- 12 – Steel Energy
So why is Solgaleo GX not THE dominant deck in the format right now? Well, when the card first came out, the prognosticators of prognosticators on all the deck sites all parroted the same Lurantis GX/Solgaleo GX list as the best way to play it. Players tried it and quickly found it to be clunky and inconsistent. After a brief appearance at a few events, Solgaleo GX seemed to vanish. A Stage 2 evolution is not the easiest thing to get into play in what remains a rather fast format and a format that likes to target benched pokemon. When you pair a Stage 2 with a line of Stage 1 pokemon and then mix in two types of Basic energy, all we see is a mess, not a competitive deck. Joel realized that a card as powerful as this needed to be the center-piece of a deck, not a complicated support character.
Even after seeing what the deck needed to be, Gym Leader Joel ran it through a few different paces as he developed his lists. Early versions included all Basic Steel energy, three Genesect EX as alternate attackers and a line of “Max Elixir” and “Super Rod” cards to keep cycling the energy through, but it still was not exactly what Joel was looking for, despite turning away several challengers for the Steel-type badge. Guardians Rising gave the deck exactly what it needed with the release of Rayquaza (GRI 106). Rayquaza’s attack, “Turbo Storm”, in addition to dealing 30 damage, attaches two Basic Energy cards from the discard pile to one Benched pokemon. The attack costs two Colorless energy, which of course can be covered by a single Double Colorless Energy (DCE). Once Joel began considering the use of DCE, he expanded the scope of what else he could include. That scope zeroed in quickly on Magearna EX.
Magearna EX adds strength to the deck with its ability and its attack. The ability, “Mystic Heart”, prevents all effects of attacks done to any of your pokemon with Steel energy attached to them. This removes two very annoying attack effects that are still very present in the format at the moment. It prevents the condition, “Confusion”, that accompanies Espeon GX’s attack, “Psybeam”. It also prevents, “Miraculous Shine”, from Espeon EX, which forces you to “Devolve” all of your pokemon in play by putting the highest Evolution card on each character back into your hand. This is devastating to Stage 2 decks that rely on “Rare Candy” to evolve, as it forces giants like Solgaleo GX back into Cosmog (60 HP) or Cosmoem (90 HP), allowing your 250 HP monster to be knocked out for minimal damage.
Just like Solgaleo GX (albeit, not quite on the same scale), Magearna EX has a solid attack to go with its ability. “Soul Blaster” hits for 120 damage for one Steel energy and one DCE. The 120 damage attack is enough to one-hit either form of Garbodor, both of which can be quite the nuisance to this deck. As it hits for weakness, the damage total is just enough to one-hit a Gardevoir GX. All of this is of course, without discarding energy, which is something this deck need to help it keep going. “Soul Blaster” seems to have a negative attack effect, in that its damage reduces to only 60 damage after being used. However, thanks to Solgaleo’s ability, “Ultra Road”, you can switch the EX back to the bench and then back Active and reset the damage output, keeping Magearna hitting for 120 as long as it survives.
The other card that is definitely worth mentioning is the starter-deck, Solgaleo, or “baby” Solgaleo, if you prefer. The “baby” does several things for this deck. The first and most obvious is that it provides a strong non-EX/GX attacker for the deck. This is a valuable addition to the deck with the release of GX blockers like Alolan Ninetales and Hoopa. Joel has found that it carries its weight in all matches, as the 170 damage “Fangs of the Sunne” attack can one-hit a multitude of EX and GX pokemon that are used heavily at the moment, especially when you drive the attack up to 200 damage with a “Choice Band”. “Fangs of the Sunne” stipulates that it can’t be uses on consecutive turns, which is easily reset with the “Ultra Road” ability from the GX. The bonus of the attack is that it does not require energy to be discarded, which can allow you more time to recharge the GX.
Of all of the different iterations of this list, the Rayquaza build is by far the best. The official list that is being retired is the one listed above. As you can see, Rayquaza was replaced with Registeel as soon as it was released, as it was more in line with the guidelines for our gym decks. Registeel is not without its own strengths. The use of Registeel allows the deck to return to using all Basic energy. Its first attack, “Turbo Arm”, is very similar to Rayquaza’s “Turbo Storm”, as it reattaches one Basic energy card from the Discard Pile to a Benched pokemon. We suppose you could chalk up the difference to player preference. However, from Gym Leader Joel’s experience playing both decks, he believes Rayquaza is the best option. Being able to attach two energy cards as opposed to just the one allows you to ready Solgaleo’s massive attack in one turn. The perfect scenario for this deck is attacking with “Sunsteel Strike” three times, taking a two-prize target each time.
If you are interested in the Rayquaza version, the change is very easy to make. Just replace the two Registeel with Rayquaza and then adjust the energy count. Joel does not use a full set of DCE. His Rayquaza version has three DCE and nine Steel energy. He found that you do not need the DCE early in games. They are used mid-to-late match to help Rayquaza recharge a Solgaleo GX after attacking.
Solgaleo GX took on eleven challengers for the Steel-type badge. Despite facing multiple variations of Volcanion EX, in ran its record to nine wins and two losses, which is pretty impressive considering how strong Fire-type decks are at the moment.
Gym Leader Joel is ready with his new Steel-type deck. Thanks to the Ultra Prism set and all of its support for Steel-types, he has several other ideas rolling around in his dome. Not only did the set give us Steel “stuff”, it also included enough Dragon-type cards for Gym Leader Georgia to make an actual Dragon deck. If you are interested in challenging either of these or any of the other gym decks, find a gym leader and let them know. We will take on the challenge as soon as possible during our normal league times. We all look forward to the challenges! See you soon at the Gym!