|04-23-2012, 02:05 PM||#1|
Join Date: Sep 2009
Dark Explorers, take it as it comes.
After the rise of the EX's from Next Destinies, I have risen and actually gotten round to finishing a news story. Batting away distractions during the week and with a certain someone badgering me and then listening to me comment on the cards I was covering, I've finished the first substantial lot of cards that we've seen from this set. Of course, two days prior to this, there was an especially early pre-release (with most being this weekend and next) bringing another 42 cards for me to look at. But I decided that I'll start looking at some of those once I've finished here and then simply edit updates in and let everyone know with a post, since UPN's had a TCG drought long enough... Dark Explorers comes, mostly, from the Japanese Dark Rush set which has a strong presence of Dark Types with a lot of the trainers aimed towards them as well. My theory behind this set is that it was released to help counter the powerhouse of Mewtwo EX who's attack is broken beyond belief. And with many strong cards who resist Psychics and dish out heavy damage, it might be the best thing we've seen in three months. The set will hold another 6 EX cards, all of which are more balanced with them having similar stats and damage output, meaning that their typing will be the most important aspect too them. But of course, let's get to the cards.
Hmm, this card is hard to place in terms of usability if I'm honest with you. Prices have shot up as the release draws near, bringing attention to the card, but to be honest with you, I only see one thing in this card that's usable for competitive matches. But let's look at the details, like a mighty 180Hp providing a lot of bulk to Darkrai and a very standard Fighting weakness, a resistance to Psychic of 20 and a retreat cost of two. And you may have noted, if you look at the cards, that I cover attacks and abilities the way they're laid out, so we get to see the best of this card first.
Dark Cloak is Darkrai's ability and it isn't short of potential. It's really quite simple as well, if any of your Pokemon have a Dark energy on them, special or basic and regardless of their type, they get free retreat cost meaning they can fall back at will if nothing else prevents them. This can really open things up if a heavy Pokemon with a sky-high retreat cost is pulled up in place of your attacker when you're opponent uses Pokemon Catcher to buy themselves some time. By placing this guy down and sticking a Dark energy card onto the heavy Pokemon, you do lose you energy drop for powering anything else up, but you also get to bring out your attacker once more. In addition, with decks that primarily use Dark energy, it's effect will be wide spread for maximum effect.
It's only attack, Night Spear, isn't too shabby either, using two Dark energy with a Colourless you get to deal 90 damage to the active Pokemon. In addition to this, you can deal 30 damage to any viable benched Pokemon either allowing for a bit of spread or sniping away an damaged Pokemon who was retreated to avoid losing a prize. This attack isn't as overpowered as some of the attacks that have been given to EX cards and is relatively balanced. However, the card itself seems more like a tech to allow you free retreat rather than an attacker, so that attack might not see the use it would get in any other format.
With the surge of Electric typed decks that we've seen from recent releases, most of which include Zekrom, EX or just regular, Eelektrik and prior to those, Magnezone and with another impressive Electric type emerging in the form of Raikou EX, I'm tempted to love this card. However, with cards like Mewtwo still dominating the scene, despite its slight rarity (with 6 EX cards in its set and only 3 EX's in a box, with the chance of repeats, it's surprising how fast people can get a hold of 4... Not that you need 4, but it was a father and son, both of whom play the game.), Groudon might see trouble asserting its dominance. He does have a solid 180Hp working in his favour with a Water weakness and a useful Resistance of 20 to Electric, but a hefty retreat cost of 4 he might be bait for Pokemon Catcher if he isn't powered up.
As for his attacks, the first one is nice but less impressive than some of the other EX's in this set. Tromp deals 20 damage for a Fighting and Colourless energy and in addition to this, it deals 10 damage to each of your opponents benched Pokemon. This can result in a total of 70 damage spread across 6 cards, but without an obvious way to condense this damage, the attack seems to fall shorter than some of the others that I've covered and yet to cover. However, this attack can fuel his second attack after one blow to the active or two blows to a benched Pokemon.
That second attack is Giant Claw and is more impressive that some of the attacks the EX's have in this set. Using 2 Fighting energies and a Colourless, it can deal 80 damage straight out but, in addition to this, if the defending Pokemon has 2 damage counters or more on them you deal out an additional 40 damage. With that effect in full force, Groudon can dish out 120 damage on top of the 20 damage they've already taken meaning a minimum of 140 damage in two turns, which is good. But a strong attack like this leaves Groudon weak to an assault by Mewtwo EX as if it were to attack with just a Double Colourless energy on the Mewtwo EX, Groudon would take 100 damage. A way to deal with this would be to have a card that can deal damage from the bench or having a Dark energy on Groudon with Darkrai EX out on the field to get him out of the way whilst you add a bit more damage to the Mewtwo EX. However, these are limited solutions as cards such as Pokemon Catcher can prove deadly to a fleeing Groudon.
Following on, it seems like all of the EX cards we're seeing are extremely similar to each other and if this had been done pre-Mewtwo, that would be great. But it wasn't. Kyogre was given a respectable 170Hp for its status as an EX card with its Electric weakness that's going to make it very hard to play. In addition to this, it has a mighty retreat cost of 4 energies meaning once it's out in the active spot, it'll be sticking there regardless of its ability to attack. This sort of build can make Kyogre difficult to play because of the sheer volume of great Electric types out there with Eelektrik to back them up with energy. Still, if that changes, he might be worth a look.
The plus side of being dragged out is that he has a very easy attack to use, requiring only a Water and a Colourless energy to pull off the Smash Turn. And this attack does what it says, it smashes them with a mild 30 damage, which is still low for the energy cost, and then Kyogre can turn tail and run back to the bench. This attack does make up for Kyogres heavy retreat cost, but it comes at the cost of using an attack meaning the pokemon you send out will have to take a hit before it can think about dealing any damage. It's this damage that really stops me from considering using Kyogre since it can't match up to some of the more powerful EX cards and being forced to pull yourself away and into someone else to take the hit if you're dragged out can really crush a strategy.
The second attack, Dual Splash really got me thinking since I'd heard that name before. And it turned out I had. This attack for 2 Water energy and that same colourless energy is very similar to the Dual Splash that the Empoleon in Majestic Dawn had only with a little more damage. The idea behind them both is the same though, you select two of your opponents Pokemon and then they each take a set amount of damage, with weakness and resistance only applying to the active Pokemon. This time around, the level of damage is 50 compared to the 30 of Empoleon, although Empoleon had the advantage of only needing a Water and a Colourless energy. This attack can be good for picking off new or weakened Pokemon that are on the bench, but if Kyogre is out on the field, that sort of situation isn't likely to present itself with such a charge up time. And that's something that will drastically lower Kyogres usability.
When I look at Fire types, like Entei here, I always see myself comparing them to the previous top fire types, especially those still in format. And with powerful beasts like Reshiram and Reshiram EX still in format, the question then becomes, how far does it fall short. With Entei, that distance is fairly hard to place due to it being built quite different when it comes to the attack styles. As for stats, well, it matches up quite well by having a tidy 180Hp and a Water weakness, no resistance is standard with fire types, but unfavourable. The biggest let down is the heavy 3 energy retreat cost that will keep Entei stuck in the active slot when he ends up there.
Attack wise, he can open up quickly, requiring only a Fire and a Colourless energy to use Fire Fang. And it's a rather simple move, dealing a low 30 damage to the opposing pokemon, but inflicting a guaranteed burn. The downside of this attack is everything's quite low. For an EX, 30 damage and a 50% chance of doing an extra 20 is on the low side considering your opponent gets 2 prizes when this card is KO'd, heck, even Donphan from Heart Gold/Soul Silver could deal 60 damage for a single energy. Plus, burn is fairly easy to avoid after it moves to their turn, a quick retreat or a switch cures that problem until the next turn. Surely the second attack will make up for this.
And if you believe that, you'll be slightly disappointed. Entei seems to have drawn a relatively short straw with Grand Flame. Using 2 Fires and that same colourless energy, Entei can only muster a sub-par 90 damage, compared to the likes of Reshiram and the upcoming Blaziken who deal 120 and 130 damage respectively for the same cost. It does have a small niche though, when you use the attack, you can take one of the Fire energy cards in your discard pile and attach it to one of your benched Pokemon. Whether or not this makes up for the lack of damage in a heavy hitting format is up for debate since the likes of Mewtwo EX would be dealing a solid 100 damage when Entei is charged for this attack. My current opinion is that Entei won't be able to keep the prize exchange going by taking 2 prizes before he's KO'd unless he's against a grass deck.
Raikou EX has been getting a lot of hype lately and has been covered in a few of the videos that I've seen. The biggest question you might consider, since it's been getting all this attention, is, 'is it as good as everyone seems to think?' The answer seems to be yes at the minute. It's got a lot of cards working in his favour, both pokemon and trainer alike and all of the stats look to back him up as well. A high 170Hp is a good base-line and he does have a Fighting weakness, a type that a lot of people want to resurface. But the biggest advantage that he has is his super low, single energy retreat cost, meaning that with Skyarrow Bridge being out as the Stadium card, he would have free retreat. But, of course, all of this wouldn't be worth squat if the attacks didn't match up with them.
First up, we have Thunder Fang, which is slightly similar to the attack in game. It doesn't need a lot of power behind it, an Electric and a Colourless, as is the theme with most of these EX's, but it still only deals 30 damage, like the other EX's I've covered. The advantage that this attack in the chance of Paralysis on a coin flip, a strong condition that isn't likely to be removed unless Switch is used. The Victini known as Flip-tini would provide an advantage to this card, giving you two chances to hit that heads, but it could also become an easy prize.
The second attack seems to be everyone's bread and butter attack, they like it. They like the cost, they like the damage and they like the effect with our current format. Volt Bolt does seem like a positive attack, taking only 2 Electrics and 1 Colourless energy (if you haven't seen the theme by now, you're either skimming through the Pokemon or I'm not doing a good job of getting it through to you) and it can deal 100 damage, more than Entei or Kyogre, to any of your opponents Pokemon. The only negative, the fact that you need to discard all your Electric energies to use the attack. However, this isn't as bad as it sounds since you can use Thunder Fang by attaching an Electric Energy, retreat him either for the single energy or with Skyarrow bridge for free. In addition, if he's retreated or if you have two Raikou's, you can use two Eelektrik to power one of them up with their ability so you can keep dishing out the damage. Also, if you discard the two or more energies as Mewtwo EX appears, it will lose a minimum of 40 damage off its attack, which could be the difference between being KO'd or not.
... Oh dear god. Mewtwo EX had an illegitimate child in card form. Yes, this card really does have the potential to be THAT over powered. While it does stand as a stage 1 Dark type with only 100Hp behind it, it holds some pretty powerful attacks to shock an unprepared opponent or make a dent in the strategy of an aware one. This version of Zoroark does also have the higher retreat cost that its previous version, in Emerging Powers, has along with the weakness to Fighting and a resistance of 20 to Psychic, a weakness that's going to make so many people want to play Fighting decks.
But let's look at these two attacks. The first one, Brutal Bash, relies on two colourless energies to power the move and will do 20 damage multiplied by the number of Dark types you have in play, to give you a maximum of 120 damage, without boosts, for two energy cards if you run a mono-typed deck. Pre-rotation, with Pokemon Collector and Dual Ball around, this will be an easy attack to boost as you can get a bench filled at a reasonable speed. However, post rotation, it's effectiveness is uncertain due to the sheer number of trainer cards that will be lost. But this isn't even the best attack.
Dark Rush, the name of the Japanese set this card originates from, is beastly if it gets a chance to shine. Simply put, for two Dark energies you deal 20 damage times the number of damage counters on Zoroark, which means simple math gives you a maximum output of 180 damage without boosts and with Special Dark energy and a certain trainer, to be mentioned later, included within this set, that 180 can rise as high as 220 before you start throwing on energy for the sake of damage. Of course, the one downside of this level of damage is that Zoroark will receive a revenge KO in the next turn, assuming your opponent has the energy to deal 10 damage. But this card has some potential for high damage output and can be used to counter cards like Mewtwo EX who would need 6 energy between the two of them for an instant KO or 3-4 out for a two shot.
A note for the future is that the latest Japanese set, Dragon Blade (which is twinned with Dragon Blast) has brought out an item named Large Cloak to grant a Pokemon an extra 20Hp. Whilst this won't have the same kick as the item card that I'll mention shortly, it could prove to be an item to give Zoroark more consistency as he'll have more health to spare after the powerful blows that power Dark Rush.
Now, I love Krookodile just as much as anyone else and this card seems to remind me of the Tyranitar's we always see. It could make an impact or it could simply be a washed out card, personally, I think it has the potential but with Pokemon Catcher out there it might fall short more often than not. But if we take a look, we see that it's got an impressive looking 150Hp, above that of the lowest EX card (Shaymin), which is nice for a stage 2 as well as the standard fighting weakness of Dark types and a resistance of 20 to Psychics. He has a fairly hefty retreat cost to match his bulk, requiring 3 energy cards to be pulled back, but in a late game scenario, he isn't likely to retreat willingly.
Looking at his attacks, the first one, Dark Clamp seems fairly standard and requires 1 Dark energy as well as 2 Colourless energy. This dishes out a modest 60 damage, which isn't great for the cost, but does mean that your opponent can't retreat without the use of cards like Switch during their next turn. This attack is only going to see use in pre-releases and if Krookodile is pulled out earlier that was expected as you should be powering up for the second attack.
That attack is Bombast and appears effective for a late game round up. The attack itself deals 4o damage, multiplied by the number of Prize cards you've taken, which is the opposite of the previously mentioned Shaymin EX. This could prove useful in late games as with only 4 prizes taken, you'll be dealing a consistent 160 before Krookodile would get any boosts from Special Dark energies or anything else. The downside? The cost, obviously. The reason this is going to be more of a late game card is because as well as evolving, you need to attach a hefty 4 energy cards (3 if you use Double Colourless) to power the attack with two of them being Dark energies. But a consistent, powerful attack at that point in a game could prove to be too much for a number of decks. It's use will all depend on if it has the chance to be charged or not.
Dark Claw... The Expert Belt of Dark types, but without the nasty weakness. This card will be a necessary card in any Dark based deck as it gives any Dark typed Pokemon that it's attached to a boost of 20 damage when striking the active Pokemon. This means that cards like Zoroark can reach 200 damage, Krookodile reaches 220 and things get fairly silly. The most obvious use would be to claim an early game lead when an attack would normally just miss a KO, but I suspect that it will simply get thrown around onto any Dark type who can attack. There uncommon rating means that people won't have to look too hard to find one (heck, I managed to pull two or three catchers in a pre-release and they were the same rating) and they can be used to take mediocre Dark decks up to a competitive level.
By this point, it seems obvious that when the set was released in Japan, it was to provide competition to Mewtwo EX through Dark types. This card is a basic trainer meaning that unless there's a lock on Trainers through Vileplume, Gothitelle or the far lesser seen Zebstrika, you can throw it down and get the effect. That effect is that you take a basic Dark energy, no specials unfortunately, and attach it to a benched Dark type, effectively reducing the time it would take to charge something like Krookodile up. To make a point, in one turn, you could attach a Double Colourless energy to a benched Krookodile and play two Dark Patch cards, bringing two Dark energies to him as well. This would enable him to go from useless to dishing out his most powerful attack in one turn. Admittedly, the chances of seeing this happen are slim, unless you decide to keep two Dark Patch cards and a Double Colourless energy in your hand, but it shows just how quickly it can turn a helpless card into a killer.
With so few fully evolved cards in this release, I was tempted to cover them all, but I then decided that there's only so many ways that you can say, 'It's nice, but far to situational to be of real use.' So I've bundled them all here, to cover their highlights.
That's all for now, but as I said, I'm off to look at those 42 new cards to pick out the best of the best and those who are worth mentioning. Then, once I'm done, I'll edit them all into this post and let you all know.
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