In Pokémon Sword & Shield: The Isle of Armor, “Battle Styles” refers to the form chosen when the Pokémon Kubfu evolves into the legendary Pokémon Urshifu. At the Towers of the Two Fists, trainers can evolve Kubfu after defeating all the trainers on each of the five floors.
Kubfu can evolve using the scroll from either the top of the Tower of Darkness or the Tower of Water. Showing Kubfu the scroll from the Tower of Darkness gives Urshifu the Single Strike Style and makes the Pokémon a fighting/dark type.
Showing Kubfu the scroll from the Tower of Waters gives Urshifu the Rapid Strike Style and makes the Pokémon a fighting/water type.
While a nice change up to how legendary Pokémon evolve (or don’t) in other Pokémon games, this choice of fighting style starts and ends with Kubfu in The Isle of Armor. But I believe Pokémon made up for this by expanding the concept into the Pokémon TCG in different and exciting ways.
Bottom Line Up Front
Battle Styles refers to the form (Rapid Strike or Single Strike) taken by the legendary Pokémon Urshifu when it evolves from Kubfu in Pokémon’s Sword & Shield: The Isle of Armor expansion.
This unique evolution choice is limited to Kubfu in the Pokémon Sword & Shield video game, but the concept was greatly expanded in the Pokémon TCG with the set Battle Styles and other subsequent set releases.
Let the Battle Begin
Throughout the history of the Pokémon TCG, there have been special mechanics introduced to change up the “metagame,” a grouping of cards most commonly used by top-level players.
Pokemon like Kyogre, Tyranitar, and Dragapult are always good choices when building a competitive team in Pokémon Sword & Shield. Similarly, certain cards are present in many different decks as part of the deck’s “engine.”
Released in March 2021, the Pokemon TCG set Battle Styles changed the metagame. Though the set received a lackluster response from the collecting community, several cards in the set had a lasting impact on the competitive TCG scene. At the time, I was extremely underwhelmed by the set, which had just a handful of cards I found chase worthy.
But the set has aged nicely, and with 183 total cards in the set, there is something for everyone: set collectors, players, and art fans.
Single Strike Master and Rapid Strike Master
The name given to the fifth main TCG set in the Sword & Shield era, Battle Styles is known as Single Strike Master/Rapid Strike Master in Japan.
The Japanese name is probably more appropriate as it describes the crux of the set—new types of cards labeled as “Single Strike” or “Rapid Strike” Pokémon. Based on hitting hard or hitting with precision, Battle Styles also includes trainer and energy cards built around the strike style mechanic.
Tower of Darkness Training—Single Strike Pokémon
Single Strike cards are meant to pack a punch. You can easily recognize a Single Strike card from the red label in the upper right of the card. Pokémon did a good job selecting their first batch of Single Strike cards by utilizing Pokémon that are slow but powerful.
Notable examples of Single Strike Pokémon include Emboar, Duraludon, and Stonjouner. Though Single Strike Pokémon can be any type, most are fighting, fire, or dark.
Notable Single Strike Pokémon include Houndoom, Duraludon VMAX, and a Pokémon that might surprise you—Gengar VMAX. Houndoom has an ability that lets you search your deck for any Single Strike card once during your turn. Searching abilities have always been powerful, but since strike cards include Pokémon, trainer, and energy cards, Houndoom’s ability can turn a bad turn or setup into a winning play.
Duraludon VMAX has two important things going for it: 330 HP and an attack that does 230 damage. But its ability protects it from receiving damage from Pokémon that have special energy cards attached to them.
Since most modern decks use special energy to quicken their setup or help them be more flexible when running several types of Pokémon, this protection can mean some decks are forced to completely ignore Duraludon and look for victory by knocking out other Pokémon.
Gengar VMAX does damage based on how many Pokémon GX or Pokémon V your opponent has in play, making it easy to punish decks running these cards.
Tower of Water Training—Rapid Strike Pokémon
Rapid Strike cards are identified through their blue labels. These Pokémon may do less damage than their Single Strike counterparts, but they can impact play in other ways through abilities or the effects of their attacks. Rapid Strike Pokemon have seen more success in competitive TCG play compared to their Single Strike cousins, largely due to the success of a few cards: Octillery, Urshifu VMAX, Inteleon, and Malamar.
Octillery functions in the same way as Houndoom does for Single Strike decks—its ability allows it to search for any rapid strike card once per turn. It is a very important card that powers the engine of many Single Strike decks. Urshifu VMAX has two powerful attacks.
Its first attack does more damage if it moves from the bench to the active position during the turn, and its other attack allows it to strike at any of your opponent’s Pokémon in play. This versatility has allowed Urshifu VMAX to match up well against a variety of different decks.
Though not released in the Battle Styles expansion, Inteleon and Malamar from the Chilling Reign TCG set have both seen play at the highest levels of competitive Pokémon TCG. Inteleon can be played in many decks that use the Drizzile trainer-searching engine.
Rapid Strike Inteleon can use its ability to do 20 damage to one of your opponent’s Pokémon once per turn. This is a great way to score cheap knockouts or put pressure on your opponent’s benched Pokémon. Malamar is more straightforward, as its lone attack allows it to do damage based on the number of rapid strike cards in your hand. Combine this powerful attacker with Octillery, and you have a potent combination.
Strike Cards in Later Sets
Besides the Inteleon and Malamar mentioned above, there are many Single and Rapid Strike Pokemon that were released in subsequent TCG sets.
The sets Chilling Reign, Evolving Skies, Brilliant Stars, and Fusion Strike all contain Single and Rapid Strike Pokemon. In my opinion, the most notable strike cards from these sets are Rayquaza VMAX and Umbreon VMAX from Evolving Skies. Not because of their playability in decks, but because of their beautiful artwork.
Both of these cards have some alternate art versions that have become some of the most sought-after cards in modern sets, and prices reflect that. Both cards are very pricey and have remained so since their initial release. However, their prices might be a bargain when looking at the odds to pull either one from a pack.
Based on a random sample of nearly 20,000 packs compiled by Reddit user u/markzeej, the odds to pull any alternate art VMAX card from Evolving Skies is worse than 1 every 300 packs.
Other Noteworthy Battle Styles Cards
Out of the 183 total cards in the set, three stand out for their design and appeal. Alternate art prints of Empoleon V, Tyranitar V, and Urshifu VMAX are prized by collectors due to their unique art style. Notably, this set began the era of alternate art cards, popular cards that have unique, full-card illustrations.
Other noteworthy cards include stadium cards based on the Towers of the Two Fists: the Tower of Darkness and the Tower of Waters. There are also secret rare cards of shiny Octillery and shiny Houndoom with a gold holofoil pattern.
Combining Powers: Fusion Strike
Fusion Strike Pokémon were introduced in the fittingly named set Fusion Strike. These Pokémon can be identified through the pink Fusion Strike label. Pokémon did not make nearly as many Fusion Strike cards compared to their Single and Rapid Strike brethren.
But, Mew V and Mew VMAX have made their mark among both collectors and TCG players as attractive and powerful cards. Just a few Fusion Strike Pokémon were released in later sets, and it seems Pokémon gave up on this hybrid approach.
In my opinion, this was a missed opportunity to turn the strike mechanic into a true “power triangle” which is so common in the Pokémon video games—think about the interactions between fire, water, and grass types. This elegant approach could have been applied to the TCG for some really interesting strategies and approaches.
Pokémon’s commitment to the strike mechanics seems to have cooled in recent sets. Still, several new Single and Rapid Strike cards and even reprints of cards from Battle Styles were included in other sets. Pokémon tends to link their sets (at least loosely) to video game releases, including Pokémon Legends: Arceus and Pokémon Scarlet & Violet. With that in mind, I doubt the strike cards will enjoy their time in the spotlight much longer.
Question: What is Battle Styles?
Answer: The term “Battle Styles” refers to the two fighting styles of the legendary Pokémon Urshifu, found in Pokémon Sword & Shield’s The Isle of Armor expansion. When it evolves from Kubfu at the Tower of Darkness (Single Strike), it becomes a fighting/dark type. When it evolves at the Tower of Waters (Rapid Strike), it becomes a fighting/water type. The Single Strike and Rapid Strike concept was developed further in the Pokémon TCG in the set Battle Styles and several later sets.
Question: Can any Pokémon be Single Strike or Rapid Strike?
Answer: In the video game series, it is limited to Urshifu. In the Pokémon TCG, there are many Pokémon (and trainer and energy cards) categorized as Single Strike or Rapid Strike. Over 100 cards of each strike type have been released.
Question: Are characters found in Pokémon Sword & Shield: The Isle of Armor expansion included in the Battle Styles TCG set?
Answer: Yes, and one character is highlighted above all others. Dojo Master Mustard, the character who gifts the player a Kubfu (and acts as the final opponent before Kubfu can evolve) has both Single Strike and Rapid Strike trainer cards. Each card comes in a regular print, a full art print, and a rainbow rare print.
Pokemon Battle Styles: Conclusion—Battle on!
As a set, Battle Styles was a great way to take a game mechanic and expand it into another medium. The Pokemon TCG is a great space to introduce lore and highlight niche features from mainline Pokémon video games. I hope this continues to happen in the future, as it is a great way to reward those who enjoy both video games and TCG. It’s like finding hidden easter eggs—not everyone knows they are there, but it is a real treat for those that do.
Though the Battle Styles set received a lukewarm reception when it was released, I think with time that will change. The set is very affordable to collect, but I think that provides opportunities to make a fun and specialized collection.
I think collecting all of the strike cards (single, rapid, and fusion) would make for a unique collection. Since the majority of these cards (almost any non-Pokémon V or VMAX strike card) are relatively inexpensive, compiling them into a binder or display is a realistic and achievable goal.
So if you enjoyed exploring The Isle of Armor and getting the legendary Pokémon Urshifu, go out and buy a few packs of Battle Styles. Enjoy the illustrations of the Pokémon, characters, and places from Pokémon Sword & Shield, and prepare yourself for the next adventure.