Sword and Shield - Astral Radiance is the newest set for the Pokémon Trading Card Game. With it comes 189 regular cards, including a suite of full- and alternate-art supporter cards and Pokémon V cards.
There are also a number of secret rare cards with special rainbow or golden colouring, and a 30-card “trainer gallery” miniature set, meaning there are a lot of Astral Radiance cards to chase.
Best Astral Radiance cards
- Dark Patch
- Hisuian Heavy Ball
- Radiant Greninja
- Machamp V (Alternate Full Art)
- Darkrai VSTAR
- Hisuian Samurott VSTAR
- Origin Forme Dialga VSTAR
- Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR
In total, there are 246 new cards to collect in Astral Radiance, making it a meaty set by any standard. That doesn’t mean every card is necessarily a hit, though. Luckily, Dicebreaker is here to sift through the chaff. Below, we’ve picked out the Astral Radiance cards that stand out from the rest. The majority of them were chosen based on their strength in the standard competitive format, but a couple made the cut based solely on appearance. (Looking at you, Machamp V.)
Whether or not you agree with this list, the launch of a new Pokémon TCG set is always an exciting time. For many collectors, chasing those ultra rares and slotting cards into a fresh binder offers a welcome dose of serotonin in these Trying Times. So join us as we take a look at the 10 best cards from Pokémon TCG: Sword and Shield - Astral Radiance.
1. Dark Patch
A quick way to power up your Dark Pokémon
In Astral Radiance, darkness Pokémon are stronger than they’ve been in quite some time. Between Darkrai VSTAR, Hisuian Samurott VSTAR and a handful of other cards, darkness decks are undeniably powerful with the new set.
Helping out is Dark Patch, a reprint from 2012’s Dark Explorers expansion. Running a full set of Dark Patch cards is a reliable way to power up Darkrai VSTAR, which does damage based on the number of Darkness energy attached to your Pokémon. Just be sure to pair Dark Patch with Ultra Balls or Quick Balls in order to get the energy into your discard pile where Dark Patch can find them.
2. Hisuian Heavy Ball
Peek at your prizes
One of the worst feelings in the Pokémon Trading Card Game is learning that you’ve prized one or more of the cards central to your deck’s win conditions. Playing a Quick Ball only to find that the basic Pokémon you’re after is somewhere among your six facedown prizes can be devastating.
Luckily, Hisuian Heavy Ball offers some much-needed prize card manipulation, which is a rarity in the Standard format. Decks running the Inteleon engine will find Hisuian Heavy Ball particularly useful as they are reliant on having as many Sobbles on the bench as possible in order to fully utilize Drizzile’s Shady Dealings ability.
Water acceleration for a water-heavy format
Astral Radiance includes a lot of great new Supporter cards, but Irida makes a case for being one of the best. It allows you to search your deck for a water Pokémon, which, coincidentally, is the typing for one of the strongest Astral Radiance cards. (Spoiler: you’ll see it a bit further down this list.)
Irida also lends some fantastic consistency to decks dependant on the Inteleon engine - lists like Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX and many of the new Palkia builds we’re seeing. All told, Irida is going to be an invaluable inclusion in many water-type decks in the new Standard format.
Turn off your opponent’s V Pokémon
Pokémon V, VMAX and VSTAR cards have been the linchpin of nearly every competitive deck since the launch of the base Sword and Shield set back in early 2020. Because of this, cards that turn them off tend to be extra powerful - and Astral Radiance’s Miltank is a perfect example of this.
It’s also hilarious to see heavy hitters like Arceus VSTAR rendered useless against a goofy cow. Currently, Miltank is being paired up with Chilling Reign’s Blissey V to surprising success in the Standard format online.
5. Radiant Greninja
A powerful one-off for water decks
One of the new mechanics introduced in Astral Radiance is Radiant Pokémon. These are rare and powerful cards that are limited to just a single copy per deck. Three of them debuted in the set, but the best one is Radiant Greninja.
Card draw will always be a boon to any deck, and it helps that Greninja synergises well with some of the set’s stronger water Pokémon such as Starmie V and Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR. Throw in a Melony or two and even Concealed Cards’ discard requirement isn’t all that bad.
6. Machamp V (Alternate Full Art)
Who cares what it does? It’s beautiful!
Let’s be honest here - Machamp V is only on this list because of how good the alternate card art is. Look at it! Where is Machamp going? What is its plan with all those umbrellas? Is that a pillow or a sack of flour? Is it shopping for itself or for its trainer? Is that Trapinch helping out? We may never know, but what we do know is that this is one of the best alt art cards ever printed.
7. Darkrai VSTAR
More energy equals more damage
Another mascot for the Astral Radiance set, Darkrai VSTAR offers a lot of utility with its Star Abyss ability. Getting two item cards from your discard pile is obviously very useful, but Darkrai’s Dark Pulse is no slouch, doing 30 damage for every Darkness energy attached to it.
Pair it with some darkness acceleration like Galarian Moltres V or Dark Patch, which got a reprint in Astral Radiance. Considering all the synergies available to Darkrai VSTAR, it’s safe to say that Darkness-type decks are in a very good place with this set.
8. Hisuian Samurott VSTAR
Hit them when they’re down
Yet another reason to consider playing Darkness-type decks in the Astral Radiance format, Hisuian Samurott VSTAR is a force to be reckoned with. The Merciless Blade attack does 220 damage total if the opposing Pokémon is already damaged, meaning that Samurott pairs very well with Pokémon that can dish out damage counters such as Galarian Zigzagoon and the Quick Shooting Inteleon from Chilling Reign. If you don’t manage to draw one of those, you can always lean on Samurott’s own VSTAR power, which allows you to distribute four damage counters among your opponent’s Pokémon.
9. Origin Forme Dialga VSTAR
Two turns in a row? Yes, please
All it takes is one look at Origin Forme Dialga VSTAR’s ability to understand why it’s one of the best cards in Astral Radiance. Taking two turns in a row is undoubtedly incredibly powerful, especially in a format where two- and three-prize Pokémon make up the bulk of attackers. Imagine taking down a VMAX Pokémon with Star Chronos, claiming your three prize cards, then getting another turn!
Use a Boss’s Orders to bring up a Pokémon V you can knock out with Metal Blast and you potentially have yourself another two prizes. The downside is Star Chronos has a hefty energy requirement, but toss a couple Metal Saucers into your deck and you’ve got it made.
10. Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR
Palkia is already winning big
One of the flagship Pokémon for Astral Radiance, Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR is nothing short of a true powerhouse. It doesn’t truly shine until the midgame as its attack is dependent on both players having loaded benches, but the potential to do 260 damage in one swing is formidable. Its VSTAR power is incredibly useful as well, allowing you to power up some of the more demanding water Pokémon in the set - such as Radiant Greninja, whose attack requires you to discard two energy.
We’re already seeing many top-tier competitive decks running Palkia, including this list which won this month’s Melbourne Regional Championship.