Pokemon 2018 TCG Rotation – Sun & Moon-on!

The Pokemon Company and Play!Pokemon announced its 2018 TCG rotation… back in May.  Why?  “Why” is an often asked and rarely answered question for a lot actions taken by the corporation.  Our speculation as to this “why” is similar to the scenario of the “Top Cut” website (remember the original online site with “Pooka”, where all net-deckers went to get their lists).   The Top Cut was taking too much internet traffic away from Pokemon.com.  So, Pokemon hired Pooka (the site’s creator) to write and commentate for them, thus improving their service and eliminating a competitor.  Of course, dozens of other sites popped up in his absence and the entire community had to embrace net-decking just to keep up, thus turning to many other internet sources.  Mission not accomplished.  Our annual rotation article is our site’s biggest draw, and the subject in general draws lots of traffic to various YouTube channels and other sites.  So, Pokemon’s response is… just throw it out there in May.  Solid plan.  The discussion of “why’s” is not why we’re here today, so let’s move on to the reason we are here, the rotation.

The 2018 TCG rotation cuts the Standard format for the 2018-19 season to Sun & Moon-on.  This means that a whopping 6 sets are cut from Standard.  Those 6 sets are the remaining X&Y sets BREAKThrough, BREAKPoint, Generations, Fates Collide, Steam Siege and Evolutions.  Also gone are all XY Promo cards (any card with a Black Star icon and an XY#).  Cards from the above sets are not gone for good, they just shift to the ever-expansive, increasingly hideous, Expanded Format.  The Expanded Format does expand its list of banned cards with this rotation, which we will address towards the end of this article.

Before we go any further, lets get the dates laid out, as this time of year is a no-man’s land, of sorts, for most players.  A handful of players are busy preparing for the 2018 World Championships (August 24-26), the pinnacle of their season.  However, as few players ever seem to know, the 2019 season has already begun, starting on July 9, 2018.  The rotation, however, does not go into effect until September 1, 2018.  The Standard Format actually adds a set before the cut, as Celestial Storm pre-releases begin this weekend and the new set will be legal for Worlds (another “why” we don’t have time for here today).  So remember, the changes discussed in this article do not go into effect until 9/1/18.

This marks the 6th  year of the Fincastle Pokemon Gym compiling a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the annual rotation.  Losing 6 sets is huge and when you wrap your mind around everything that goes with these sets, you will likely be asking yourself, “What cards are left?” or “How do I make a deck now?”.  The lion’s share of what makes current decks function the way that you are used to, is gone.  This rotation is the gastric bypass of the current Standard Format.  After September  1st, you are going to have to go pants shopping.  This, like all previous articles, will break everything down by set, starting with the oldest set, BREAKThrough and working, in order, back to Evolutions, then addresses the XY Promos.  If you are looking for something specific, scroll down.  The beginning of each section will be marked by that set’s logo.

The confusion stirred up at rotation time is usually owed to reprints.  There are cards that, since the original Base Set, have been printed again and again in newer sets, usually with different artwork.  However, as long as the name of the card and the text (what it does) does not change, all versions of that card (even the ones from Base Set) remain legal, as long as 1 version of it is still in the Standard Format.  More often than not, these are Trainer cards and, more specifically, are usually Item cards.  Since Supporter cards are based on human characters from a specific region (which most expansions are based on) and Stadium cards are usually based on a location from those same regions, they are rarely reprinted.  Items are more general and can be tied to almost any region from the Pokemon universe, so it is easier to use them again between sets.

The example we like to use to illustrate this is the Item card, “Switch”.  It has received 22 different printings that we could find since the inception of the TCG.  Throughout all of those different versions, its name and text have remained unchanged since Base Set:  “Switch your (1 of) Active Pokemon with 1 of your Benched Pokemon”.  Pokemon has changed the order of the words a few times and added a word or two, but the meaning and mechanic of the card has never changed.  This allows players to use whichever version they prefer, or have.  Now when they rename a card and change it’s definition, as they did with “Computer Search”, the old version becomes irrelevant.  Only the newer card (ACESPEC, in this case) could be used.

There are a massive number of card to discuss in this year’s rotation.  With that being said, we will not mention every card from every set.  We will try to keep our focus on the cards that make/made up the format and the ones whose loss will be felt.  Pokemon has improved its method for printing promo versions of popular character over the last 2 years.  This, thankfully, means that are no   characters from rotated sets that live on past this rotation (i.e. Yveltal EX, that has managed to stay alive in the Standard Format almost as long as we have been playing).  This makes the rotation much easier to navigate.  There are, however, a handful of Trainer cards that do carry over.  Be sure to check your card supply against the lists below.  Relevant energy cards in all sets will be included in the Trainer sections.

*Here is a chart with the abbreviations of the set names involved:













The first set to go is of course, the oldest set.  BREAKThrough, a 162 card set released in 2015, was the first set to introduce the BREAK evolution, giving us what are effectively Stage 3 pokemon, similar to the much older Level X mechanic from years ago.  Here is a look at the cards that go and the cards that stay.

BREAKThrough – Trainer Cards That Are Rotated:

BREAKThrough – Trainer Cards That Remain In Format:

BREAKThrough – Pokemon That Are Rotated:

BREAKThrough – Pokemon That Remain In Format:

  • N/A

Our initial reaction to what is lost in this set alone is a quote from Gary Busey, which generally is not good practice in the grand scheme of things.  But alas, “ Holy jumped up bald-headed Jesus palomino!”  What on earth that means… we’re not sure.  What we do know is that the losses from BREAKThrough cripple the ways in which most decks are played at the moment.  With the exception of Buzzwole/Lycanrock, the ideal opening turn for most decks is to either play a “Brigette” from your opening hand, or use Tapu Lele GX to search it out and play it.  The immediate counter to a 1st-turn “Brigette”, the Stadium card “Parallel City” is also a heavily played card at the moment.  If you throw in the additional Trainer cards lost, like “Float Stone”, “Super Rod”, “Skyla”, “Professor’s Letter” and “Heavy Ball”, that makes a huge list of cards that are critical to many decks… and this is only the 1st of 6 sets that rotate.

As you browse the list of Pokemon that rotate with BREAKThrough, it looks more like a reunion of a Super Bowl Team.  There are a lot “has-beens” on this roster (with 2 notable exceptions).  I’m sure everyone that has played the TCG in the two or three seasons can think of successful decks they either piloted or lost to that featured cards like Mega Mewtwo EX, Zoroark (Stand In), Yveltal (Fright Night), Xerneas (Rainbow Force) or Raikou/Magnezone.  These decks tailed off rather quickly with the emergence GX decks.

The two most notable losses in terms of Pokemon are Gallade and Octillery, which many of you may remember, once combined into a deck of their own.  Since then, Gallade drifted into the more powerful Gardevoir GX builds.  Octillery, on the other hand, has remained the best source of extra draw support and protection from late-game “N’s”.  Our personal collection of decks has very few builds that do not run at least a 1-1 Octillery line.  Most of them go with a 2-2 count for consistency.  Oranguru is a replacement for it, post-rotation, but not an equal by any measure.

Whichever card from this set has the largest impact on the format once rotated may be up for debate.  I think all will agree that the combined pool of cards lost from BREAKThrough is a blow to every Standard deck list currently in existence.  Let’s move onto the next set and throw some salt on the wound we just opened.





This second set featuring “BREAK’s” came to us in early 2016 as a 123 cards set.  When you see what goes with this set and combine it with what you just saw, you may begin to ask yourself, “How do I make a deck now?”  We’re sure, as in Jurassic Park, that life will find a way.  However, the face of the game, and perhaps the pace of the game, will not be same.

BREAKPoint – Trainer Cards That Are Rotated:

BREAKPoint – Trainer Cards That Remain In Format:

BREAKPoint – Pokemon That Are Rotated:

BREAKPoint – Pokemon That Remain In Format:

  • N/A

When you take the big hitters from this set away with those from BREAKThrough, you have basically dismantled the Trainer line from almost every deck in Standard.  Let’s start with the obvious.  “Professor Sycamore”, or moreover, the effect of the card, has been in the TCG without interruption since 2011, about the time that we started our league.  “Discard your hand and draw 7 cards” originally came in the form of “Professor Juniper”.  Its second iteration, “Professor Sycamore”, extended the life of the greatest draw support that the TCG has ever seen.  Whichever card takes 2nd place in the biggest loss category from BREAKPoint, it is a distant 2nd.  Speaking of which, we would argue that card to be “Max Elixir”.

In the Sun & Moon world of 3-energy attack costs on most GX’s, of which 2 of the 3 are designated as a specific energy type, “Elixir” provides the out to games going 3 turns before anything happens.  The speed Elixir adds to many decks is what has kept this format from being all Gardevoir GX, all the time, which it almost seemed to reach before Burning Shadows brought Buzzwole GX and then Shining Legends added Zoroark GX.  If Elixir is not the 2nd biggest card lost, then it is narrowly edged out by “Puzzle of Time”.  The first time we saw the card, we said that it was the format’s replacement for “VS Seeker”.  Players seemed hesitant to use it at first, but because of its excessive use and the power it possesses in Zoroark GX decks, it has already been declared banned in the 2018-2019 Expanded Format (more on that later).

“Fighting Fury Belt” has been one of our favorite cards of the past few seasons.  Gym Leader Joel has used it on everything from Zygarde EX to Tauros GX to Celesteela GX, to Ho-Oh GX.  It has provided some protection from the insane power of Buzzwole GX and all of its support at the moment.  “Delinquent”, “Bursting Balloon” and “Splash Energy” are also cards that have all seen play in top decks throughout the year.

Darkrai EX was one of the most heavily played EX’s in recent memory, from its time in Darkrai EX/Giratina EX, to the Standard & Expanded versions of “Turbo” Darkrai, it was very powerful… until Buzzwole came along.  The pokemon that still impact the format the most are Garbodor and Greninja/Greninja BREAK.  These 3 cards have kept a huge array of Ability-driven decks out of the format for years.  Players who have tried out such decks, like Volcanion, have entered many events, to just sit there with their head in their hand while an opposing Greninja player drains the clock and their enjoyment away, or digging through their deck for a “Field Blower”, just to get free from “Garbotoxin” for a turn.  Thankfully, the introduction of “Field Blower” in early 2017 broke the tenacious hold that Garbodor had on the format for the better part of a year.  We’ve played the TCG too long to believe that they will leave lock decks out of the picture for long (yes, there is Glaceon GX, but at least that can be countered easily at the moment), but we’re not sad to see either Greninja or Garbodor go.

Those seem to be the major losses from BREAKPointTrevenant BREAK is only successful in Expanded events, as is its counterpart, Espeon EXEspeon did make its way into some of the Yveltal BREAK decks at the Columbus Internationals.  Decks that focused around others like Mega Scizor EX, or used guys like Manaphy EX, Palkia EX or Ho-Oh EX as support pokemon and back-up attackers have passed into the shadows of the more powerful GX’s.  The combined losses of “Float Stone” and Manaphy EX hurt the functionality of Lapras GX.  However, Lapras may still see play, post rotation, as it has one of the only forms of energy acceleration left, in “Aqua Patch”.  We still think that Mega Scizor EX has some interesting potential considering all of the Special Energy decks around at the moment.  Whether or not anyone would risk such a play at Worlds is unlikely… but we would surely root them on if they did.





This set is a promo set that came out just after BREAKPoint, only available in promo box that featured full art X&Y Promos of legendary pokemon, and a fancy pin as accompaniment.  The 115 card set is actually a combination of 83 cards and a 32 card Radiant Collection.  It is the random reprint set that we get once per series.  While it did introduce a few significant new cards, reprints compile the majority of the set.  Those chosen to be reprinted leave us wondering whether those cards were picked for a reason or during a huge corporate game of darts.

Generations – Trainer Cards That Are Rotated:

Generations – Trainer Cards That Remain In Format:

Generations – Pokemon That Are Rotated:

Generations – Pokemon That Remain In Format:

  • N/A

After what is already lost in this rotation, it does not seem like there could be much left to lose.  But alas, there is more, albeit not as severe to the average player.  “Evosoda” has been a staple in most Greninja lists, as players have tweeked those lists here and there by a card or two.  It has seen an increase in play recently in Zoroark GX decks, so it is perhaps the biggest loss from Generations at this point.  “Red Card” and “Team Flare Grunt” have been favorites of many disruption and stall decks.  They move on to join their many hideous counterparts in Expanded.

The pokemon lost from Generations do not seem that significant at this point, but that was not always the case.  Jolteon EX had a huge impact on the format when it was still EX-dominated, as “Flash Ray” blocked all Basic attackers.  Most decks now seem to have an evolution of some sort (i.e. Lycanroc GX or Zoroark GX) that make committing 3 energies to Jolteon too risky.  Wobbuffet seems to have faded from players minds as well, but still provides a very unique form of Ability lock.  Even as we look at it now, with its creepy grandma lipstick, we see a very cheap card that can shut down things like the new Rayquaza GX coming in Celestial Storm.  I don’t know, maybe we’re working up a rogue World’s idea as we write this…. Wobbuffet/Mega Scizor…. after all, there is a Metal/Psychic “Unit Energy”…..hmmmmm.




Fates Collide:

Fates Collide was released in May of 2016 as a 125 card set.  This is the last set to keep alive what we still believe to be the most powerful card in the TCG, “N”.  The card that joined us all the way back in Noble Victories in 2011 finally leaves the Standard Format, thus wrapping up the elimination of almost every Trainer card currently used the format.

Fates Collide – Trainer Cards That Are Rotated:

Fates Collide – Trainer Cards That Remain In Format:

Fates Collide – Pokemon That Are Rotated:

Fates Collide – Pokemon That Remain In Format:

  • N/A

As already mentioned, the Trainer card exodus is pretty much completed with the additional few cards lost from Fates Collide.  This is the set that kept “N” alive.  “N” has always been a powerful disruptor, but its true worth is its value as a comeback card.  We know that Gym Leader Joel is not alone in having played a game where a huge lead (1 prize to 6) was completely erased owing to a well-timed “N”.  The loss of “N” coincides with the loss of 3 other valuable relics that stayed with us thanks to reprints.  The first of which is “Strong Energy”, originally delivered in Furious Fists.

“Strong Energy” pushed the already powerful Buzzwole GX, and its other Fighting-type counterparts to insane levels in terms of attack damage.  It’s loss should not destroy the effectiveness Fighting decks, but it will bring them back down to earth.  The other two reprinted relics lost from FCO are the Stadium cards, “Fairy Garden” (originally in XY Base set) and “Scorched Earth” (from Primal Clash).  Both have given way to more popular Stadiums lately, but have both put in a heavy workload in major decks over the years.  FCO‘s losses are much heavier in the pokemon department.

We don’t know where to start on this list, as we’ve used almost everything on the list to make league decks, win League Challenges or feature in major tournaments.  The combination of Zygarde EX, Regirock EX and Carbink BREAK is what stands out to this author.  Despite Carbink‘s “Safeguard” Ability being rendered useless by the emergence of GX’s, the energy recovery provided by Carbink BREAK is still amazing, as it allows the re-attachment of discarded Special Energy cards (only to Fighting-types).  Zygarde EX is a strong, non-Psychic-weak option for Buzzwole decks.  Regirock EX, while outclassed by Diancie Prism Star, still works its way into decks looking for that extra damage boost.

Although its place is long gone, it bears repeating that Mega Audino EX won the 2016 World Championships.  Genesect EX took Gym Leader Georgia to the Gym’s best finish (11th Place) ever at the National Championships (now Internationals) in 2016.  Gym Leader Joel played Genesect EX throughout 2017 in his Solgaleo GX deck.  It will be missed by the folks at the Gym and surely elsewhere.  We don’t want to share an anecdote for every EX, BREAK and Ability pokemon from FCO listed above, but we surely could.  It is a great set that features pokemon that we like to play.  Little-to-nothing in the set prevents others from playing & enjoying the TCG.  FCO focuses on a nice mix of balanced attackers and supporting characters.  It is our hope that TCGI makes more sets in the future that follow the model of FCO.





Steam Siege:

This set came in right before the 2016 World Championships in San Fransisco.  It started the precedent of introducing a new set that is legal for the biggest event of the year, right before it gets here.  The practice, to us, is equivalent to changing the rules of the NCAA basketball tournament, where once in the Final Four, everyone plays badminton.  It’s obviously not our call, but it is on our list of “why’s”.  Irregardless, the set contains 116 cards.  This small set offers the smallest pool of Trainer cards of sets discussed here and introduced the short-lived mechanic of dual-type pokemon cards.

Steam Siege – Trainer Cards That Are Rotated:

Steam Siege – Trainer Cards That Remain In Format:

  • N/A

Steam Siege – Pokemon That Are Rotated:

Steam Siege – Pokemon That Remain In Format:

  • N/A

We’re down to the nitty gritty on Trainer cards lost.  So, let’s not waste time.  Zoroark GX players will miss “Special Charge”.  That was easy.

Pokemon from this set spawned three prominent decks, that still have value, but mostly to those that don’t follow the crowd at this point.  Volcanion/Volcanion EX is the best introductory competitive deck made by TCGI.  When we say “made by TCGI”, we mean that it was originally designed to to be a deck within the set (kind of like the Darkrai EX/Hypno combo that never took off in BKP).   Not only is Volcanion easy for a new player to learn, it is a really good deck.  Various members of the Gym have played it since the release of STS with both great successes and completely miserable days, depending on how many people played Greninja.  The same can be said of Mega Gardevoir EX.  The rotation of “Skyfield” weakened this dual-type Mega, leaving it as a rogue concept that most have shied away from (it does hit Buzzwole and CES Rayquaza GX for weakness….).  The final prominent STS deck comes from this set’s reprint of “Geomancy” Xerneas and its partner, Xerneas BREAK.  The prospect of a non-EX/GX deck with one-hit potential is always an attractive one in the TCG.  Xerneas BREAK has seen some success from time to time.  The bonus of all three of these decks is that they are inexpensive to build.

The other notable losses from STS have been cards that were a little surprising.  Talonflame made appearances in Greninja and Gardevoir GX lists, in hopes that those players opened with it in their hand (otherwise it was useless).  Yanmega BREAK was the centerpiece of the Senior Division Wolrd Champion in 2016.  Yveltal BREAK made a strong run at this year’s Internationals, surprising many players with its “damage spread” strategy.  One of the pre-release promos, “Hyperspace Punch” Hoopa, also stayed in everyone’s binders until this year’s Internationals, where it became a popular tech in Malamar decks.

Much like FCO, Steam Siege is another straight-forward set that brought a lot of fun cards into the format, only to see most of them driven out by Greninja and Garbodor.





The last set to leave us in the 2018 rotation is reprint set, of sorts, that hit all over the spectrum.  There are reprints of the first X&Y Mega-EX’s, finally with “Spirit Link” cards, a good 2 years too late for anyone to notice or care.  There are “re-tasked” pokemon from the original sets, with the same pictures and attacks, but with updated HP and damage numbers.  Pokemon threw in a few new cards to boot, making for a 113 card set that is more for collectors, but not without a few cards that worked their way into the format.

Evolutions – Trainer Cards That Are Rotated:

Evolutions – Trainer Cards That Remain In Format:

Evolutions – Pokemon That Are Rotated:

Evolutions – Pokemon That Remain In Format:

  • N/A

The Trainer pot is hereby empty.  Outside of the random appearance of “Brock’s Grit”, we don’t think we’ve seen any of these cards in much outside of league decks.

The pokemon from this set were eye candy, for the most part.  About $3 would buy you the two most played cards from EVOStarmie, with its nifty “Space Beacon” ability, was a staple in Volcanion EX for a while.  It recently has become vital to Greninja BREAK lists as well, as the unlimited “Energy Retrieval” effect (as long as you have abilities) freed up room for other cards.  Mewtwo, bearing the image of its first release, has been played in a multitude of decks.  Any card that does solid damage for a Double Colorless energy always draws attention.  The fact that it has hit many big-hitters in Standard, like Buzzwole GX, Espeon GX and others, for weakness makes it that much more valuable.  The high pull rate in the set is the only reason why Mewtwo is a $1 card instead of a $10 card.  The reprint of the Flashfire Charizard EX is a personal favorite, but not currently played in the Standard Format.





XY Promos:

The last types of cards that bears mentioning when navigating the rotation are the Black Star Promo cards.  The 2017 rotation already cut the XY Promos up to XY66, leaving all those, XY67 & above legal for this past season.  This year’s rotation picks up there and takes out the rest, all the way to XY211.  Thankfully for the aim of this article, not all of the 144 cards that remain were staples of the format.

XY Black Star Promos – Trainer Cards That Are Rotated:

  • Gym Badge (League promos 203-210)

XY Black Star Promos – Trainer Cards That Remain In Format:

XY Black Star Promos – Pokemon That Are Rotated:

XY Black Star Promos – Pokemon That Remain In Format:

  • N/A

Now that’s a whole lot of nothing to just get to the fact that we lose Mew EX, Yveltal EX, Giratina and Jirachi.  Mew EX, still floating around from the days of Dragons Exalted and Legendary Treasures, gives Zoroark GX and easy counter to its biggest threat, Buzzwole GX.  Giratina provides “plug & play” protection to any deck from Greninja BREAK.  Yveltal EX stands side by side with the Mewtwo EX from Next Destinies as one of the greatest attackers in TCG history.  We at the Gym do not see where it has really lost any hitting power.  It’s decline in play is more of a factor of its match-ups with current decks and perhaps, that players have simply grown tired of using it.

The extraordinarily long list of pokemon that rotate out in this category is what Play!Pokemon got wrong.  This was way too many cards from previously rotated sets to keep in the Standard Format, and with little rhyme or reason.  The thing that jumps out at us to illustrate how random the reprint list truly is that there are 4 Mega EX’s and “Spirit Link” cards in play with no legal Standard EX to play them on.  If Play!Pokemon and/or TCPI truly pick reprint candidates by throwing darts… then they need to hire a better dart player.  If someone in the state of Washington makes really good corn liquor and their judgement gets a little saucy, then someone call a revenuer.  If these are not the causes of these ridiculous lists of reprints, then perhaps they should approach such decisions with one of those things we like to call a “plan”.  They work wonders.

The empty list at the end of all 7 sets showing which Pokemon remain in the format is what Play!Pokemon is finally getting right.  The annual rotation is meant to keep the game fresh.  Keeping individual cards in play through multiple rotations does nothing of the sort.  The massive increase in the number of events per year means that the format is going to get hammered out thoroughly.  As much as we dislike the Expanded Format, it provides a place for those players who cling to older ideas to play those decks.  It is also creates a decent change of pace between events to test player skill and adaptability.  Attendance throughout the year illustrates that players prefer the Standard Format.  We hope that the new trend to not give reprints a new number stays, so that Standard will stay fresh, even if it is limited at times, and older cards will stay in Expanded.


Cards Banned From Expanded Format:

Now that we are back around to it, it is worth noting that Play!Pokemon added four more cards to the list of cards banned from use in Expanded in the 2018-19 season.  They are the following cards:

These join the already banned, Archeops (NVI 67, DEX 110), “Forest of Giant Plants” Stadium and “Lysandre’s Trump Card”.  Expanded seemed to narrow itself recently to Zoroark GX vs Trevenant BREAK.  In an already less popular format, allowing two decks to dominate it risks driving attendance even lower.  Who wants to play 9 mirror matches over the course of 12 hours?  These cards, especially “Hex”, “Puzzle” and “Wally” are key to Zoroark and Trevenant.  If they threw in Seismitoad, then we’d be somewhere.  Maybe next year, who knows.  At least this illustrates that somewhere in the dart-damaged, corn liquor smelling recesses of the state of Washington, someone is paying attention to the formats.

Well, that is about all that Gym Leader Joel can stand to write about Pokemon in one month.  This compilation of information takes some time and a lot of double-checking, but we hope that you find it useful.  If you have any questions about the rotation, feel free to email us your questions at fincastlepokemon@gmail.com, track us down at our leagues or at any convention we attend.  We are pretty well versed in this process at this point and will gladly help you navigate the rotation, whether it is your first or just an annual event that causes you confusion, or depression, when you look at your card binder.

Thanks for checking in.  See you at the Gym!

Comments are closed.