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Yu Yu Hakusho
Harry Potter
Vs. System

Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day


Donphan Prime


Date Reviewed: July 27, 2011

Ratings & Reviews Summary


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

Combos With:

Baby Mario
2010 UK National

Donphan Prime (HeartGold SoulSilver)

Ah Donphan Prime . . . solid, reliable, decent if unspectacular. With all the uncertainty caused by the unprecedented early rotation of seven sets, it was hardly surprising that people would turn to such a safe card as this.

Donphan has always been a playable card: good-to-great HP, an excellent damage-reducing PokeBody, Resistance to the popular Lightning type, and a cheap one Energy attack were all enough to ensure that. Unfortunately, the presence of Gyarados decks in the metagame were enough to keep them from ever being truly top tier. Now Gyarados has gone, the threat of Kingdra can be easily teched against with a single copy of Reshiram, and Samurott is often too slow, meaning that Donphan is one of the most powerful Pokémon left standing.

He does have some downsides though. That recoil Bench damage from repeated Earthquakes can really hurt (and leave your Bench open to Yanmega snipes), and the retreat cost is a headache that practically forces you to run multiple copies of Switch. Perhaps the most serious drawback though is Donphan’s relatively low damage cap: 60 is more than decent for the first few turns, but after that it becomes sub-par. Sure, Donphan also has Heavy Impact which does 90 . . . but that costs a huge three Fighting Energy.

For that reason, you will most often find Donphan partnered by one or more alternative attackers. At one point, Machamp Prime looked like the obvious candidate, as its Champ Buster attack has great synergy with Donphan’s recoil damage. Despite being thought of as a real contender, the deck performed below expectations at US Nationals. Never mind though, there are plenty of other candidates: Zekrom and Reshiram also have an attack (Outrage) which is made more powerful if they take damage while Benched; and it’s a useful inclusion in any Stage 1 toolbox style deck (choose from Yanmega, Cinccino, Zoroark, Weavile, Slowking) because of its ability to hit popular Lightning Pokémon like Zekrom and Magnezone for Weakness while resisting their attacks.

And that is really Donphan Prime’s niche: he’s a solid wall with good Typing in this metagame, while relatively low Energy demands also make him very easy to tech.


Modified: 3.5 (very durable, hits key Pokémon for Weakness, but lacks power in the late game)

Combos with . . .

Zekrom, Reshiram, Machamp Prime


Happy midweek, Pojo readers! Today we're continuing our reviews of Primes that found success at the North American National Championships. Today's particular Card of the Day was very hyped before the tournaments, and for good reason. Today's Card of the Day is Donphan Prime.

Donphan is a Stage 1 Fighting Pokemon. Aside from Donphan itself, Fighting-types aren't all that common in Modified right now. Machamp Prime is sometimes paired with Donphan, but aside from that, the type isn't seen all that much. 120 HP is great for a Stage 1, and Donphan's Poke-BODY really helps out as well. Water Weakness could be a lot worse in this metagame, although Water will likely be stronger in the future. Lightning Resistance is excellent, keeping powerful threats such as Magnezone Prime and Zekrom at bay, allowing you to easily take them out before they get rid of you. Finally, a Retreat Cost of 4 is really expensive, and shouldn't be paid - make sure to use Switch or Super Scoop Up to get Donphan out of the Active Position, or something similar, like Machamp's Fighting Tag.

Donphan has a Poke-BODY and two attacks. The Body, Exoskeleton, decreases the amount of damage Donphan takes from attacks by 20. This means that in order to OHKO Donphan, a potential attacker must be able to do 140 points of damage total. This is a significant number, as both Zekrom and Magnezone fail to OHKO easily due to Resistance, and Magnezone has to remove four Energies for Lost Burn in order to KO - something the Magnezone player will hate doing. Basically, this body in and of itself is excellent, and should definitely be watched out for.

Of Donphan's two attacks, one is commonly used and the other is not. Earthquake, the much cheaper of the two, deals 60 damage for the amazing bargain price of a single Fighting Energy. The drawback is that Earthquake also deals 10 damage to each of your Benched Pokemon. Many decks try to find ways around this damage, such as with Serperior BW, and others try to exploit it, comboing Donphan with Machamp Prime. Either way, Earthquake is an amazing, cheap attack that can easily wreck your opponent, and due to its low cost, can fit its way into any deck.

Heavy Impact, Donphan's second attack, sees a lot less use than Earthquake. It deals 90 vanilla damage for three Fighting Energy. Not at all impressive, especially given how cost-effective Earthquake is. You'll be avoiding this one most of the time.

Modified: 4/5 Donphan is an excellent, game-changing Pokemon in the Modified metagame. Being able to deal 60 damage for one Energy is insane, and its Resistance to the very common Lightning-type is great. Being able to OHKO Zekrom and Magnezone Prime with a PlusPower is amazing, as well as being able to keep other very powerful threats in check. Donphan will often lose to Water-types that can hit for any sort of damage and also doesn't do well against Yanmega, but all in all, if you're looking for a powerful, inexpensive beater, Donphan is a great go-to choice.

Limited: 5/5 Exoskeleton is amazing in Limited, and Earthquake is more than ridiculous. If you get this out, chances are your opponent will scoop unless they have something very amazing (or a powerful Water-type). Even if the rest of your HGSS draft is poor in terms of Fighting-types, Donphan will easily fit into your deck, despite its color requirements.

Combos With: Machamp Prime, Serperior BW

Mad Mattezhion
 Professor Bathurst League Australia

Donphan Prime (HeartGold/SoulSilver)

Ahh, Donphan. That most terrifying of early game beasts, Donphan Prime has had a presence in the metagame since it has been printed and almost always spells doom for the opposing player when you see it emerge on Turn 2.

Let's reiterate the stats that define 'brilliant' for non-evolving Stage 1 Poke'mon. Donphan is a Fighting type with 120 HP, Water weakness, Lightning resistance, a retreat cost of 4, a Poke-body and two attacks.

The HP is great (although it os overshadowed by the Dragon Twins) and only gets better when the defensive Poke-body and awesome resistance (Magnezone Prime needs to burn 4 energy to take an OHKO and Zekrom barely tickles). The retreat cost is the tradeoff and if you have to pay it manually then you are in deep trouble. Fortunately, Machamp Prime has a Poke-power that will pull Donphan back on to the bench for a single [f] energy, and the trusty old Switch will also get you out of the Active slot anytime you need it.

Donphan is one of the very few cards that really takes advantage of being a Stage 1. I'm about to go through the abilities and attacks but you probably already know that Donphan Prime doesn't need much in the way of setup or support until the late game, so it needs very few cards to play (a Basic, an Evolution and a Basic energy to be exact). Because of this low cost in resources, Donphan is one of the hardest Poke'mon to disrupt with cards like Weavile UD and Judge as well as being hard to KO.

The Poke-body, Exoskeleton, reduces incoming damage as I said above. After applying weakness and resistance, any damage is reduced by 20 so Water Poke'mon have to hit 70 damage to OHKO, while Lightning Poke'mon need to deal 160 damage for the same. Any other type needs to hit 140 damage, so if you can play Donphan early then you should survive several hits while your opponent tries to set up a main attacker, by which time you should be up by about 2 prizes.

Donphan Prime's sturdiness combined with its speed as a Stage 1 make it fearsome in the early game but the attacks (or at least the first attack) are the reason it is famous.

The much-feared Earthquake is the first attack and costs a mere [f] to deal 60 damage, with the drawback of dealing 10 damage to each of your own benched Poke'mon. As I said before, the speed with which you can get Donphan into play coupled with the difficulty in knocking Donphan out makes it incredible in the early game and Earthquake gives it the damage output necessary to turn that into a chain of KOs, especially if you are hitting for weakness (Fighting weakness is one of the most common in the game).

Zekrom BW, Magnezone Prime, Bouffalant BW, Weavile UD, Cinccino BW, Entei & Raikou Legend, Ursaring Prime, Zoroark BW, Houndoom UD and Tyranitar Prime all have Fighting weakness so you will have plenty of favourable matchups. Even if you can't get an OHKO, Donphan is usually only a Pluspower away from finishing the job. Even without weakness, with a Turn 2 setup (which is pretty easy to achieve) you can usually 2HKO anything your opponent has Active.

However, the flip side of the coin is that Fighting resistance is the most common form of resistance available and can appear on any type of card (as Fighting resistance is usually added to show that the printed card is a Flying dual type in the video games). Having your damage dropped to 40 a turn makes Donphan a lot less effective, but you win some and you lose some.

I've barely mentioned the recoil damage, but that usually isn't a problem as it combines extremely well with Machamp Prime's Champion Buster, which deals extra damage based on the number of damage Poke'mon on your bench. Still, you do have to be carefull that you don't lower the health of your other Poke'mon too far, especially your other evolving Basics. The Phanpy from Call of Legends can be buffed to avoid the incoming damage while the Vespiquen and Combee from Undaunted can also make use of the recoil while protecting any other Grass Poke'mon in play if you tech Donphan Prime into a multitype deck (which is worth considering due to the low amount of energy and deck space required). On the flip side, you should avoid low HP basics in your Donphan deck, especially since Mandibuzz BW takes advantage of Donphan's minor flaws and will turn the recoil into easy prizes.

Although Eartquake (along with the stats) is what makes Donphan a monster, Heavy Impact is also worth using. While the cost of [f][f][f] means you have to manually attach 3 energy (the main reason it isn't used very often) the lack of other drawbacks does make it a fair trade at 90 damage. This gives you enough power to 2HKO any Poke'mon in the game, even through resistance. If you can't switch to another Poke'mon with a heavier attack (Machamp Prime or another energy hungry beatstick) then Heavy Impact is a decent fall back for when you have to hit heavier targets (especially of the Water variety).

At the end of the day, Donphan Prime is the most powerful early game attacker in the format and one of the best tank/attackers ever printed. The speed, the durability and the ability to hit Basics with all the fury of a meteor storm make Donphan rightfully feared. While you have to pair Donphan with another attacker who can OHKO the really big targets there are plenty of dance partners and the possibility for rogue builds is enormous. I've seen Donphan paired with everything from Armourott to Tyranitar Prime and with the power of Zekrom and Magnezone Prime to contend with, I expect to see plenty of Donphan Prime in the future.

Modified: 5 (I had this card at #1 on my list of Top 10 Poke'mon Cards of 2010 because it made Fighting weakness a terrible thing to have. I keep repeating myself but the speed of Donphan is what all tanks wish they had, and the fact you need so few cards to make it happen also makes Donphan pretty hard to stop with disruption. The brutality that is Eartquake just brings the whole package together and the removal of several bad matchups in the rotation, most notably Crobat G, makes Donphan far more powerful than it was before. Fear it, you have been warned!)

Limited: 5 (it's a Stage 1 with built in damage reduction and a single energy attack that will 2HKO almost anything you face, so you will definitely take it. Just watch out for taking out your own bench prematurely and Special Conditions, as well as the mirror match. I doubt anyone is running a HGSsS Limited tournament anytime soon though)

Combos with: the strength of Donphan is that it can combo with any other cheap attacker, but it works best alongside Machamp Prime. Other potential dance partners include Vespiquen UD, Yanmega Prime, Cinccino BW, Kingdra Prime, Zoroark BW and Bouffalant BW are all possibilities.

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