Darkness Ablaze has arrived and along with it some new Pokémon for you to carry into battle or collect. Check out some thoughts put together by a game master in regards to these new key additions. Click here to place your order for some Darkness Ablaze packs before they’re all gone!
- Decidueye – Decidueye is much like Galarian Obstagoon. Decidueye’s invincibility to Pokemon-GX and V is arguably more powerful than Obstagoon’s immunity to Basic Pokemon. Although Decidueye is vulnerable to single-Prize attackers, it has immunity against strong new threats such as Eternatus VMAX. Decidueye likely won’t see tons of immediate play, and it can be countered if it does, but it’s sure to see some success during its lifetime.If you ask me, the best way to play Decidueye is in a deck focused entirely around it. While pivot attackers such as Beheeyem and the new Greedent may be tempting, they take up tons of space and are extremely susceptible to Boss’s Orders. Although we lose Counter Gain to the rotation, cards like Rosa, Rare Candy, and Lillie’s Poké Doll are still around, meaning we can play a similar engine to Obstagoon of the pre-rotation format. If decks end up packing answers to Decidueye, it may be feasible to include techs to counter the counters, so to speak.
1b. Rowlet – The new Rowlet is quite interesting as well. If you use Bird Keeper (a mediocre Supporter that draws three cards), Rowlet can attack for free and snipe 60 damage. Although this normally wouldn’t be too important in a deck like this, whose win condition is preventing the opponent from doing anything (rather than racing to six Prizes), Rowlet can help preemptively take care of threats to Decidueye. For example, putting 60 (or even 120) damage on a single-Prize attacker while setting up can make them much easier to deal with later on. A terrific addition with Darkness Ablaze.
- Centiskorch VMAX – Darkness Ablaze brings Centiskorch VMAX is an interesting, and it clearly has potential. Dealing more damage for each Fire Energy attached to it, it’s one of the few Pokemon capable of OHKOing other Pokemon VMAX. However, it takes seven Fire Energy to reach 320 damage. Heat R Energy and Mallow and Lana can supplement Centiskorch’s natural bulk, preserving the heavy investment of Fire Energy that it requires. Its own attack slowly accelerates Energy to itself, and Welder can take care of the rest. Centiskorch VMAX will likely be a successful archetype on its own due to its unlimited damage cap and convenient Fire typing. Charlie Lockyer wrote about pairing Centiskorch with Electrode-GX which is one way to go, but not the only way to go. I do think this is the best opportunity for Electrode-GX to shine since its release, so check out that article for a more detailed look at that version.
2b. Centiskorch V – (the Basic form) is a little overlooked if you ask me. Its first attack discards Energy off the opponent’s Active, and its HP can be increased to absurd levels with Cape of Toughness and Heat R Energy. Combined with healing and hand disruption, Centiskorch V may be able to succeed on its own as a control deck.
- Crobat V – Crobat V is far and away the best Pokemon in the set. Crobat will be a staple in many decks, and it will see lots of play in Expanded as well. Crobat is also a crucial part of the new Eternatus VMAX deck. There isn’t much else to say; Crobat is great.
- Hoopa – Hoopa is essentially just a Dark-type version of Zapdos. It goes well with Eternatus VMAX, and it helps take care of single-Prize Pokemon like Mad Party users. It can easily snag a quick KO or two at the beginning of games, and it can soften up (or finish off) large targets for Eternatus VMAX.
- Eternatus VMAX – Eternatus VMAX is the most hyped attacker of Darkness Ablaze. While I don’t think it’s broken, it’s certainly strong and will be a solid deck on its own. With the Dark-only Sky Field effect and a M Rayquaza-EX-style attack, Eternatus VMAX can easily swing for 270 damage for only two Energy. Although it won’t be OHKOing most Pokemon VMAX even with the help of Galarian Zigzagoon, it easily OHKOs literally everything else. Against other Pokemon VMAX, Hoopa can help out. Eternatus V can hit for 30 damage while accelerating Energy, a useful early game attack that can take out low-HP Pokemon when combined with Galarian Zigzagoon.
- Golisopod – Golisopod has a decent attack, dealing more damage for each Pokemon V and Pokemon-GX an opponent has in play, but it’s a Stage 1 that requires Twin Energy (or Triple Acceleration Energy). It’s not easy to set up on demand, and opponents can easily play around it. I think Golisopod may be better suited for Expanded, where it’s more likely to deal heavy damage, is easier to set up, and also has access to Double Colorless Energy. I do not see it making a splash in Standard, especially with how conditional its attack is.
- Vikavolt – To be honest, I’m not sure exactly where Vikavolt V will find itself in the meta. Lightning loses most of its support in the rotation, and Item lock isn’t too devastating in Standard. In Expanded, Vikavolt gains access to Thunder Mountain Prism Star and Electropower, though it also has to deal with the presence of Pokémon Ranger. Vikavolt is a solid card. Its first attack does some damage and causes Item lock, and its second attack is quite strong. It also has high HP that can be augmented by Cape of Toughness. I don’t see Vikavolt V becoming an immediate threat. It feels out of place right now, and I’m not really sure what to make of it. This is the card that I’m most clueless about, but I’m not expecting anything great from it at the moment.
- Simisage, Simisear, and Simipour – Darkness Ablaze adds this semi OP evolution line now I’m not going to start off by saying the Simi trio is secretly broken, but they do have some potential – particularly Simisear. I would consider these Pokemon as matchup-specific techs that can be included in any deck that utilizes Triple Acceleration Energy. For one Triple Acceleration Energy, they can hit for 110 as either a Grass-, Fire-, or Water-type. While they won’t be OHKO’ing anything huge, they may be worthwhile techs to handle specific threats (such as Zacian V). I would keep these Pokemon in mind for the Expanded format as well, even though there are no official Expanded events for the foreseeable future. I wish they were just a little bit stronger, perhaps hitting for 150 instead of 110.
- Houndoom V – Houndoom can be played alongside Welder and / or Turbo Patch. After just one Welder and one attachment, Houndoom V can deal an impressive 200 damage. The one requirement is that one of your Benched Fire Pokemon must have damage. With Rainbow Energy rotating, the new Spikemuth Stadium will probably be needed for forced damage placement. Although the conflict with Giant Hearth (or other potential Stadiums) is annoying, Spikemuth is only needed once, and then Houndoom’s attack is live for the rest of the game. Cape of Toughness or Heat R Energy increase Houndoom’s HP, allowing it to survive most attacks, including Zacian V’s Brave Blade. I don’t think Houndoom is amazing, but it certainly isn’t garbage.
- Milotic – I think Milotic has an interesting Ability. As a Stage 1, it can heal 20 damage from each of your Pokemon once per turn. I can’t think of a specific application for it right now, but it’s a notable Ability that may become relevant at some point. In Standard, there aren’t many healing options to begin with. I could also see it having use in Expanded at some point, as it’s essentially a superior Serperior. Milotic is a card that I’ll definitely keep in the back of my mind.
- Arctozolt – Arctozolt is a Stage 1 whose Ability deals two damage counters to opposing Pokemon when they receive Energy attachments. Being one of the few damage modifiers (loosely speaking) in Standard, I could see it being useful. It could also help decks that spread damage, such as Decidueye, Weezing, or Dragapult. The biggest issue with Arctozolt is that it evolves from Rare Fossil, which is unsearchable by conventional means. This means it will be difficult to get Arctozolt into play. This is particularly problematic because Arctozolt’s Ability benefits from it being in play as soon, and as long, as possible. Just like Milotic, I think Arctozolt is interesting enough to warrant mention even though it isn’t spectacular.
- Galarian Slowbro V– Galarian Slowbro V and Hiding D Energy might replace Garbodor in Toxtricity VMAX decks. A thin package of Galarian Slowbro V and Hiding D Energy (and possibly more copies of Switch) is less of a space commitment than Garbodor and multiple Stadiums. Darkness Ablaze gives a well deserved call-back to a popular original!
- Hydreigon – Despite being a Stage 2, I believe Hydreigon has some serious potential due to the partners it can accelerate Dark Energy to. Umbreon and Darkrai-GX is one of the few Pokemon that can OHKO Pokemon VMAX (while imposing Item lock as well), and Greninja and Zoroark-GX is another one of those few (though it requires tons of Energy in play). Grimmsnarl VMAX is a behemoth with 330 HP that can hit for 270. Eternatus VMAX offers a Sky Field effect and also hits for 270, though it would limit the player to only Dark-type Pokemon. I’m not convinced that it’s even worth playing either VMAX with Hydreigon, as they are basically Stage 1’s and their limited damage caps make them weaker than the Tag Teams. Although Stage 2 Pokemon are more reasonable with Rosa in the format, there remains the concern of quickly finding enough Energy to fuel these monstrous attacks. Hydreigon is definitely something that I am going to work on.
- Galarian Stunfisk V – Galarian Stunfisk V is my favorite card in the set. While it may not see much success in Standard, especially with its Fire Weakness, Stunfisk has some potential in Expanded with access to Double Colorless Energy and healing cards like Max Potion and Acerola. Its Trapping Bite attack deals 60 damage for CC, and it places 12 damage counters on the opponent’s Active if they attack into it next turn. Stunfisk’s Ability and Cape of Toughness both increase its HP. I could see some sort of tanky Stunfisk deck working, with only Lillie’s Poké Doll and Robo Substitute on the Bench to prevent opponents from easily circumventing Trapping Bite’s effect. That said, I will be trying to make Galarian Stunfisk V work in both formats. It might not end up being great, but it’s very interesting and full of potential.
- New Trainers and Energies
- Cape of Toughness – Cape of Toughness is one of those clearly strong cards. It gives 50 HP to any non-GX Basic Pokemon. There’s nothing more to say, it’s very good.
- Piers – Piers isn’t explosive, but it’s versatile and helps out Dark decks. Piers is better than Sonia for Dark decks. It’s one of the few cards that can search for Special Energy. Piers might even be useful in non-Dark decks because of this. It can grab a Special Energy and a Crobat V, making it a pseudo draw Supporter as well. This is another card that may see play in Expanded, as it’s much easier to abuse tech Supporters in that format. I am happy to have a card like this in the game. It’s useful, unique, and balanced.
- Turbo Patch – On the other hand, Turbo Patch is one of the most broken Item cards ever printed. It will see tons of play in Standard and Expanded. Any Basic Pokemon with even a semi-awkward attack cost will make use of Turbo Patch: Sableye V, Zacian V, Vikavolt V, and even some Basic forms of Pokemon VMAX may use it before they evolve.
- Heat R Energy, Hiding D Energy, and Powerful C Energy – Darkness Ablaze introduces some new energies, Heat R Energy increases Fire-types’ HP, Hiding D Energy gives Dark Pokemon free Retreat, and Powerful C Energy increases Colorless’s damage output. All three of these cards are exceptionally strong. Powerful Energy may see the least amount of play simply because there aren’t many attackers that can use it, and those that can probably already rely on Triple Acceleration, Twin Energy, or Double Colorless Energy. Heat and Hiding Energy will see tons of play with their respective types.
- Big Parasol – Big Parasol notably blocks Dragapult VMAX’s spread damage, making it something that low-HP decks can take advantage of. Of course, if Eternatus VMAX ends up chasing off Dragapult entirely, it won’t be necessary. I am happy to see a card like this in the format though. I’m sure it will find a variety of niche uses as time goes on.
- Billowing Smoke – I actually think this card will have a use in hand control decks, even though hand control decks may not be as popular as they once were. From the perspective of a hand control deck, opponents adding Prize cards to their hand after taking a KO is a nuisance, and Billowing Smoke would prevent that from happening. With some luck, it can even mill crucial resources. If a deck were toa use many copies of this card, it could entirely prevent opponents from accessing their Prize cards.
- Bird Keeper – Bird Keeper is not great, but it’s not bad either. It draws only three cards, but it enables certain attacks such as Rowlet’s, and it also provides a switch effect. The switch effect works well with Jirachi, especially once Escape Board rotates. If you are trying to set up Decidueye (or anything really), Bird Keeper draws cards and enables an extra Stellar Wish (or pivots into Lillie’s Poke Doll). There aren’t many draw Supporter options that allow you to keep your hand, so Bird Keeper may see some play.
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