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Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day


Phantom Forces
Top 10

#7 - Robo Substitute

Date Reviewed:
Nov. 6, 2014

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Standard: 3.50
Expanded: 3.50
Limited: 4.42

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

#7 Robo Substitute 

Here’s a strange little card of a kind that we haven’t seen for a very long time in the game. Not since the (ab)use of Mysterious Fossil in Polistall decks and the never-used Base Set Clefairy Doll has there been a card quite like this. 

Robo Substitute is an Item which you play as if it were a 30 HP Basic Pokémon (note: it isn’t actually a Basic Pokémon, so you cannot start a game with it as your Active). You can discard it when you want, and your opponent takes no Prize if it gets Knocked Out. Pretty straightforward, if a little quirky, but what could it possibly be used for? 

Well, the obvious use is to give your opponent a target upon which they are forced to waste an attack for no gain.  What kind of decks like this kind of effect? Punch-and-Run decks mainly. That means the popular and successful Donphan PLF, but also includes Palkia EX and the new Gengar EX. These Pokémon like to switch into something that will frustrate the opponent and nothing is more frustrating than having to KO something that doesn’t give up a Prize. Sure, they could use a Lysandre or Genesect EX’s Red Signal, but that doesn’t get rid of the problem . . . Robo Substitute comes right back next turn. 

Obviously, Robo Substitute is a pretty niche card, and annoyingly, it can’t be played under Seismitoad’s Quaking Punch Item lock. However, I’m glad to see something like this back in the game, giving deckbuilders some interesting options for the future. 


Modified: 3.5 (a specialist effect, but a nice one to have in the game)

Expanded: 3.5 (see above)

Limited: 3.75 (you’ll play it as it is a stall/Prize denial option)


Strange how we've managed to keep a Pokemon-Trainer-Pokemon-Trainer pattern this week, now that I look at it. Funny how that works, huh? Welcome back to today's card, something that doesn't look all that special at first but may actually have a lot of potential behind it: Robo Substitute.
Robo Substitute is a spiritual successor to cards like Clefairy Doll from Base Set. It comes into play as a Pokemon and can be discarded at any time during your turn, so if you've filled your Bench with cards like him, you don't have to worry about leaving them in play. Robo Substitute gets his own HP stat of 30, but he's got no attacks and can't retreat. On the plus side, when he gets KO'd, your opponent doesn't take a Prize card - he's not an actual Pokemon, you know.
So what's the value in a card like this? Well, he's basically worth one turn. What I mean by that seems a little vague, but think of it this way: let's say you start out with just one Pokemon in hand. It may not last long, and you're not having the best of luck grabbing another one for some reason. Put down Robo Substitute as a spare Pokemon, and it saves you from losing by having no Benched Pokemon and gives you one turn to grab the extra guy.
Let's look at a less dire situation: say you've got Landorus-EX upfront with a Garbodor and Robo Substitute on the Bench. Landorus-EX just got KO'd for whatever reason, so you need someone to replace him - and you don't want it to be Garbodor. Put in the Robo Substitute, and now you have one turn to grab a new Pokemon and start powering it up while the Substitute takes the hit. In other words, that one turn just saved your Garbodor.
There are some fundamental flaws with playing a card like Robo Substitute though. For starters, you have to worry about spread damage from things like Darkrai-EX, who can snipe the Substitute right out and cause you to lose regardless (less you've got 2 Substitutes out). Alternatively, the opponent could wait for something like Poison damage from an HTLBank combo to KO between your turn and their turn, which would make throwing in the Substitute a stalling tactic that delays the inevitable - and essentially wasting your extra turn.
This is what makes Robo Substitute an interesting if not risky card; he forces a choice to be made, a decision to be thought of ahead of time (you still have to play him first). He's an investment of time, and not a lot of it either - but that one turn could very well mean the difference between winning and losing.
Standard: 3.5/5 (a unique stall card that could very well end up in decks as a means to "buy a turn")
Expanded: 3.5/5 (about the same here)
Limited: 4.5/5 (that turn you buy here could be extremely valuable)
Arora Notealus: We don't really get a lot of cards like this anymore. Fossils used to work this way back in the day, though you could actually start with a Fossil on your Bench because of the ruling about them, and I don't think I've heard of anything aside from Clefairy Doll doing anything like this. Curious, isn't it?
Next Time: Someone just got an upgrade!


Welcome back as we continue the first week of our Top 10 Promising Cards of XY: Phantom Forces with our seventh place pick!  As a reminder, reprint cards were not eligible for the Top 10 list, which was created via each member of the review crew each submitting their own Top 10 card list to Pojo, who then averages them out to produce the master Top 10 list we use for the review order.  The official release date for this set in the U.S. is November 5th, so XY: Phantom Forces cards aren’t tournament legal until November 21st; however we’ll be scoring them as if they were indeed legal. 

With that out of the way, the number seven pick is Robo Substitute (XY: Phantom Forces 102/119)… or possible Robo Substitute Team Flare Hyper Gear (XY: Phantom Forces 102/119).  I’m not 100% clear if the smaller text is intended as part of the official card name or not; we’ve had similar “not actually part of the card name” text in that position before but it isn’t overly important anyway since there is no other card named Robo Substitute.  An interesting thing to note is that the card appears inspired by the move “Substitute” from the games; the Japanese card’s name matches the Japanese move’s name, replacing “Substitute” with “Scapegoat”.  Maybe we’ll see some Abilities or attacks that interact with it? 

Whether “Team Flare Hyper Gear” is part of the name, a sub-designation or both, one expects we’ll see cards relating to that in the future.  For now all Robo Substitute has to worry about are effects that target Trainers or Items… well unless you’re using the card’s effect.  Robo Substitute can be put into play as if it were a 30 HP, Colorless Basic Pokémon; you may discard it from play at will but can’t Retreat and it doesn’t award any Prize cards when KOed.  To reinforce, on that last bit it is worded so that effects that increase how many Prizes you take when you KO something still won’t apply.  No word of if it can attack via cards like Technical Machines, but as none are currently Standard or Expanded legal anyway, that probably isn’t a major concern.  Based on the lack of text referencing it, apparently this can receive attack effects (including Special Conditions) and have Pokémon Tools attached… which I bring up because of some old cards: Clefairy Doll (Base Set 70/102) and Mysterious Fossil (last printing EX: Power Keepers 85/108) which were quite similar but specifically were stated as having no attacks and being unaffected by Special Conditions.  Since it says it can be Knocked Out (just not for Prizes) then I would assume effects that trigger when something is KOed still apply when Robo Substitute is KOed (but not when it is discarded). 

Based on past rulings, while in play Robo Substitute will also still count as a Trainer; it is one of the few special cards that while in play (but not anywhere else) will count as Pokémon and Trainer, so once in play it has to worry about effects that work against either of those major card divisions.  I couldn’t find any  current cards that “discard all Trainers in play” or “discard all Item cards in play” (or other variations) but there are some among older cards and they should be able to take out Robo Substitute alongside Pokémon Tools and Stadiums.  With my unofficial rulings based on past precedent or card text, let’s move onto why this card has people excited right now. 

“Porter” decks or “Hit-and-Run” decks or one-of-several-other-names decks are built around a strategy of using an attacker that sends itself to the Bench, promoting something different in its stead.  This can backfire at times, but usually allows you to keep said attacker going far longer than you normally could, helping you get ahead on Energy.  Such decks try to force you to attack Pokémon that you either can’t seriously injure, that provide beneficial effects (from the perspective of the player running them) when injured or that are relatively inconsequential to KO.  That last category is where Robo Substitute earns its stripes.  Gengar-EX (XY: Phantom Forces 34/119, 114/119) is the latest such attacker while Donphan (BW: Plasma Storm 72/135) has already enjoyed tournament caliber success.  Even though most such attackers aren’t going to hit hard enough for a OHKO, that matters a lot less when the opponent is attacking into something that is easy to put into play and doesn’t award any Prizes. 

You could of course run it in general for when you need to buy time; you can discard it at will so can always send it up when something is KOed or your opponent plays a Warp Point and then discard it when you know what you really want in the Active position, or leave it up to force the opponent to waste an attack or effect to get rid of it.  This can be very potent but it comes with the same downside as the previous use.  First you can’t play this as your opening Basic, so it won’t reduce your mulligans.  Second, while it behaves as a Pokémon in play it won’t count as one in the discard pile, meaning once you burn through them they require something significant to get them back into the deck or hand, like Lysandre's Trump Card or Dowsing Machine, respectively.  Third, Item blocking cards have been a longstanding aspect of the Pokémon TCG (technically before Items were known as such) and at present (so before we really have solid information on the impact of this set), its a fairly popular aspect of the game (usually in the form of Seismitoad-EX).  The fourth and final concern is the simplest but perhaps the most important; without a porter strategy, you’re slowing down your own offense at the same time. 


Standard: 3.5/5 - Composite rating; in general Substitute Robo is a solid card that misses the cut because there just isn’t the room in most decks, while in a few key decks it should be quite valuable. 

Expanded: 3.5/5 - Nothing added to the card pool here strikes me as being particularly beneficial or problematic for Substitute Robo. 

Limited: 5/5 - Very nice to force the opponent to waste resources or to give yourself some breathing room when deciding what you really want Active, and it might even be handy in the odd +39 deck.  The big concern about deck space in constructed will almost never apply here. 

Summary: Substitute Robo, barring any surprise rulings, is a useful card that like many before it is crowded out of general usage by the sheer volume of options, but when you find a deck that can use it well its a very effective play.  It still just missed making my own list because this set was chock full of cards that were impressive in specific decks but not very good in general or were very good in general but not in specific decks, with a few that managed to be both.  We’ll find out if I didn’t give Robo Substitute enough credit soon enough!


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