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Pojo's Pokemon Card of the Day


Top 10 New Pokémon Cards of 2010

#8 Donphan Prime 


Date Reviewed: Jan. 5, 2011

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Modified: 3.83
Limited: 4.60

Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale.
1 being the worst. 
3 ... average.  
5 is the highest rating.

Back to the main COTD Page

Baby Mario
2010 UK National

#8 Donphan Prime (HeartGold SoulSilver)


Anyone who has suffered through my reviews for the past year will know what I think of Stage 1 Pokémon as a main attacker in this format . . . they suck. They can’t match the speed of Basic Pokémon, and they lack the power and durability of Stage 2s.


There are two exceptions to that rule: Gyarados SF and the #9 card on our top 10 list, Donphan Prime. So, why is Donphan an exception? Simply because it does have the power and durability of a Stage 2 Pokémon. With 120 HP, a PokeBody that reduces damage done to it by 20, and an attack that does 60 for a single Fighting Energy, it’s actually tougher to KO and can hit harder and faster than the vast majority of Stage 2 Pokémon. This card is nicknamed ‘Donkphan’ for a reason.


Donphan decks have been moderately successful in the past, but never really reached the top tier. There are a few reasons for this: players have learned how to deal with a poor match up against them (Crobat G’s Toxic Fang works well), and that 60 for one Earthquake becomes less and less effective as longer games progress (Heavy Impact will do 90 damage, but for the very steep cost of three Fighting Energy). The main thing keeping it in check, however, is the continued presence of Gyarados in the metagame: its ability to hit Donphan for Weakness and Resist its attacks means that the match up is close to an autoloss for the Donphan player.


Nevertheless, Donphan does still see play here and there and it can be an uncomfortable experience for players who aren’t prepared to face it.




Modified: 3.25 (It’s a beast early game tank, but it can be countered)

Limited: 4.5 (it’s hard to think of anything better for this format)


1/5/11: Donphan Prime(HGSS)-#8 Card, 2010
Given that Donphan is one of my favorite Pokemon, I was thrilled not only to see a good Donphan, but a good Donphan that also fit the style of such a Pokemon. Really, one look at Donphan should tell you what it does best: it's tough, and it hits stuff. Would you rather have a Donphan based on finesse?
That said, Donphan has never been the most successful deck. It's had success, sure, but despite having an advantage over Luxchomp, it's never reached the hype it had prior to its release. That said, unlike yesterday's card, Jumpluff, it has been the most consistent archetype from HGSS. A state championship here, high placings at Regionals and US Nationals there, and various other successes are what Donphan has accomplished.
Right now, it's not a smart play, due to Gyarados' revival, but in areas where people still play heavy Luxchomp, Donphan can dominate.
Modified: 3.75/5
Limited: 5/5(Oh man, you pull this in Limited, and get it out, and then you basically win.)


Donphan Prime is #8 on our Top 10 of 2010 countdown, a bit lower than I had it, though maybe my placing was due to a guilty conscience.  While I said it would make for a great deck I think I scored it a little low, so let’s start from the beginning.  Being a Fighting Pokémon is pretty nice: it is the most common Weakness in Modified.  Being a Stage 1 Pokémon makes it fairly easy to get into play, and as we’ll see for once isn’t a kiss of death.  As a Stage 1 Pokémon, 120 HP is great.  Water Weakness x2 is not, but Rain Dance decks weren’t anywhere near as popular as I was expecting the first time we reviewed this card.  You still need to be careful, but thanks to the Poké-Body even with your Weakness it still takes a solid 70 points of damage from a Water Pokémon to OHKO Donphan Prime.  Certainly not an impossible amount for Water decks, but at least it will have to be the main attacker.  Lightning Resistance -20 isn’t much, but there’s that Poké-Body again: so -20 becomes -40, allowing you to shut down most minor attacks and making it incredibly hard for Lightning Pokémon to score a OHKO on Donphan.  Anchoring the bottom stats is a Retreat Cost of four.  This is massive, and you will have to pack something to switch out Donphan or just accept that it isn’t retreating.

Exoskeleton is a solid Poké-Body since the small drop in damage is combined with good HP and potent low Energy attack, Earthquake.  Earthquake lets Donphan hit for a solid 60 points of damage and minimal Energy.  The downside is it will hit your Benched Pokémon for 10 points of damage.  Of course if they are more Donphan… the wording on Exoskeleton should protect them.  You can also drop two more Energy to power up Heavy Impact, which hits for a flat 90.  You probably won’t use it much, but it is nice to have.  All the attacks require Fighting Energy, which is a bit of a drag: Donphan can’t make use of most Special Energy cards like Double Colorless Energy, except to pay for its Retreat Cost.  So while none of these abilities are revolutionary, they do compliment each other and allow Donphan to hit hard and fast.  In fact, Donphan Prime basically ruined the grading curve for the rest of the class: while single Energy attacks don’t have to hit for 60 points of damage but they do need to be near that ratio.

Donphan seems designed for first and second turn Knock Outs.  Risk an Expert Belt and you all but guarantee you’re scoring a KO second turn.  Your opponent will eventually take Donphan down, but you should have a second and third ready to go by then.  A few copies of PlusPower to help with extra large Pokémon and all you’re really going to have to worry about are rival speed decks and Water decks.  In my original review I worried about adding some healing to Donphan Prime decks, and by HS – Triumphant we actually got what we needed in Seeker and Machamp Prime: a strong tag partner that can transfer Energy while forcing Donphan Prime to the Bench, which sets up for Seeker to bounce and heal it.


Modified: 4.5/5 – As stated, I see the foundation of a speedy, almost cheap feeling deck.  Well have to see if better players will figure out what best goes with it and run it.

Limited: 4.75/5 – Just watch Weakness and that Bench damage: you don’t want to lose because you can’t get Donphan out of a Water Pokémon’s way or because you KO’d your own Bench.


Happy midweek, Pojo readers! Today we have reached #8 on our Top 10 Cards of 2010 countdown. Today's Card of the Day is notable because it can tank as well as hit hard. It was popular early in the year with the release of HeartGold and SoulSilver, but its popularity has waned a bit in recent months (at least in my area). Today's Card of the Day is Donphan Prime.

Donphan is a Stage 1 Fighting Pokemon. Fighting types are rather common nowadays, with Machamp being a popular and effective deck and Promo Toxicroak G seeing play as a revenge killer against Luxray GL Lv. X. In fact, Donphan makes a great partner to Machamp Prime, but we'll get to that later. 120 HP on a Stage 1 is fantastic, allowing Donphan to take a few hits. Water Weakness is terrible, as Gyarados and Kingdra Prime will be able to do massive damage to you (Kingdra needs a bit of help to OHKO, though). Lightning Resistance is also great, significantly lessening the damage you will incur by the likes of Luxray GL Lv. X and Magnezone. Finally, a Retreat Cost of 4 is absolutely horrible - don't even think about paying it.

Donphan has a Poke-Body and two attacks. The Body, Exoskeleton, reduces any damage Donphan receives in an attack by 20, effectively giving it resistance to every type. This Body is very good, as it stops many would-be KOs and forces your opponent to hit you very hard. Unfortunately for Donphan, its main rival Gyarados can still OHKO through Exoskeleton with minimal investment.

The first attack, Earthquake, is one of the major selling points of this card. Earthquake deals an excellent 60 damage for a single Fighting Energy, with the side effect of dealing 10 damage to each of your Benched Pokemon. 60 damage for 1 has made this a popular card to build a donk deck around, that is, to attempt to beat your opponent on your first turn of the game. This attack also combos really well with Machamp Prime's Champ Buster, as the additional damage to your Bench from Earthquake will make the Champ Buster attack more powerful.

Heavy Impact, Donphan's second attack, is not nearly as good as Earthquake, dealing 90 damage for [FFF]. 90 damage for 3 isn't bad by any means, but it isn't quite enough to hit the top threats of the current Modified metagame, and has a very heavy Fighting Energy commitment. If you want to use something that can hit hard for 3 or more Energy, use Machamp SF or Machamp Prime.

Modified: 3.25/5 The current Modified metagame isn't exactly Donphan's time to shine with the resurgence of Gyarados, but it still can be a contender if played correctly. 120 HP with damage reduction is nothing to scoff at, Earthquake OHKOs Luxray GL Lv. X in most circumstances, and very few Pokemon will like taking 60 damage every turn quickly. However, there are a few drawbacks. First of all, repeating Earthquakes will really take a toll on your Bench, making snipers like Garchomp C Lv. X and Gengar SF more effective. Secondly, with Heavy Impact being rather lackluster, Donphan doesn't really have much of a late-game. This can be remedied by throwing it into Machamp builds, as you can hit fast and hard early game, while you wait to build up your Machamp Prime on the Bench. Once your Donphan is about to get KOed, use Fighting Tag to switch out Donphan Prime for Machamp Prime, and then hit your opponent with a very powerful Champ Buster. I wouldn't recommend playing Donphan on its own quite yet however, and Gyarados and Kingdra are very unfavorable matchups, and both of those decks are fairly common right now.

Limited: 4.25/5 Donphan Prime rips through the rest of the HeartGold & SoulSilver expansion. Earthquake is absolutely ridiculous in Limited, and Heavy Impact can also win games if you can build up the Energy for it. A Stage 1 with high HP and damage reduction makes this all even better. The only real drawbacks are Earthquake's residual damage and Donphan's massive retreat cost, but if you are really lucky and pull a Blissey Prime too, that will really help there.

Combos With: Machamp Prime

Mad Mattezhion
 Professor Bathurst League Australia

Donphan Prime (HeartGold/SoulSilver)
This is the card that ranked number #1 on my list; I’m surprised to see it here! Still, it made the cut and I think everyone expected it to.
Just like yesterday’s card, Donphan is built for donking. Unlike yesterday’s card, Donphan is still strong and thanks to the release of Machamp Prime it now is even stronger!
The curriculum vitae: a Fighting type Stage 1 with 120 HP, Water weakness, Lightning resistance, a retreat cost of 4, a Poke-body and 2 attacks. Quite simply, Donphan combines 2 things rarely seen in Pokémon: tanking and speed. Being a Stage 1, it is possible to easily get Donphan into play even under the effects of Trainer lock and disruption, while the Pokebody provides great defence to complement the high HP and great resistance. Be sure to pack several options for free retreat though: Flygon RR and Machamp Prime’s Fighting Tag power are both good ideas, as well as Switch/Warp Point.
Now the abilities and attacks. Exoskeleton is the aforementioned Poke-body and it simply reduces incoming damage by 20 (after applying weakness and resistance). Admittedly it would be more useful if it was applied before weakness and other damage boosting effects, but I’m not going to complain. It is a solid effect and will let Donphan soak quite a few early hits, or at least one big hit from a non-Water Pokémon (damn that Gyarados!), maybe even 2 hits or more with sufficient healing (hello Poke Healer +, can you fix my booboo?).
Next is Heavy Impact (even though it is actually the second attack). For the heavy cost of [f][f][f], you deal 90 damage. Nothing fancy, this attack is pure vanilla and would normally earn a gong, especially as it is on a Stage 1 Pokémon. However, it serves as a higher-damage alternative for the much better first attack for those annoyingly common occasions when your damage is being reduced by resistance. Seen in that light, it isn’t completely crap though you won’t use it if you have better options. Now the real prize…
The appropriately named Earthquake is the main reason Donphan has become so successful and justified the hype surrounding the card. For the low, low price of [f], you deal 60 damage with the downside of dealing 10 damage to each of your own benched Pokémon (though Exoskeleton will protect benched Donphans, and effects like Manectric PT’s Electric Barrier and Special Metal energy will protect your other benched Pokémon). Machamp Prime’s Champion Buster attack can make that downside an upside instead, but you still have to be careful if you are using any low HP techs (Uxie LA and Azelf LA spring to mind).
Put simply, Earthquake set the new benchmark for single energy attacks. Sure, Luxray GL can manage the same trick but Levelling up is a bit more difficult than simply evolving and you also need a Pokémon Tool (Energy Gain) to pay for the attack. Worse, Charizard PA, Kindra LA and Jumpluff HGSS can deal even more than 60 damage for a single energy (up to 80 damage, 80 damage with a 20 damage snipe and up to 120 damage respectively, more if they are wearing the dreaded Expert Belt).Nidoqueen RR and other Stage 2 Pokemon can also deal 60 or more damage for a single energy with a little help. So why the fuss?
Donphan needs 3 cards. That’s all. No extensive setup, no lucky flips. Just a Basic, an evolution card and an energy, which is pretty simple even when you are suffering from heavy disruption and denial (whether it be of trainers, Poke-powers or some other kind of lock). Donphan comes out, Donphan stomps the squishy Pokémon that your opponent has Active and then Donphan repeats the process until you have your Machamp or other attacker powered up and ready to roll.
Donphan may lack the stopping power to go toe-to-toe with the heaviest attackers out there, but the havoc and prizes you can reap early on are well worth the deck space and there are a number of options for combos with high-investment high-damage attackers. Just watch out for Crobat G which will put a serious crimp on your style by both remaining out of donking range and using Toxic to quickly whittle away your health (especially annoying when you can’t switch out). Also worthy of mention in the undesirable match-up category is Dialga G, who will also stubbornly soak damage while shutting off your Trainers, Stadiums (Broken Time Space is a favourite of Donphan players) and Poke-bodies (the loss of Exoskeleton really affects Donphan’s playability). At least their common partner Luxray GL is on the easy-to-eliminate list with Donphan taking 40 less damage and dishing out double the punishment. Mwahahahaha!
Oh, by the way, a fully powered Gyarados will make mincemeat out of Donphan so watch yourself, or the sight a Magikarp will stop making you laugh and start making you curse the day you started playing this game. Maybe tech in a Magnezone Prime with a few Junk Arm to clear you hand out for good draw?
Modified: 4 (there are several bad matchups, but Donphan is popular for several good reasons)
Limited: 4.5 (easy to play and brutal, just watch out for the mirror match and don’t overdo it on the bench damage, okay?)
Combos with: Machamp Prime, Flygon RR

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