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Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day


Top 15 Ancient Origin Cards

#7 - Unown

- Ancient Origins

Date Reviewed:
September 3, 2015

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Standard: 4.00
Expanded: 4.13
Limited: 4.95

Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale.
1 being horrible.  3 ... average.  5 is awesome.

Back to the main COTD Page



Um...wait, really? 

Ummm.....alright then. 

So Unown is on the list! At #7! 


So Unown here is...well, he doesn't have that much going for him. He's got 60 HP, his attack Hidden Power is a 1-for-10 strike that's the lowest of the low, and he's...well, that's really about it. This isn't a mistake, right? Wait, read the Ability? 


Yeah, Unown here has a bit of a quirky ability in Farewell Letter. See, if he's on your Bench during your turn, he can send himself and all cards attached to him to the discard pile in order to let you draw a card. So obviously you're NOT gonna attach anything to him before using Farewell Letter. Oh, and this isn't a Knock Out, so don't worry about giving your opponent a Prize - that's the part where Unown spells out, "H A H A H A H A !" 

Still, maybe I'm a little late to the party and the synapses aren't firing off right or something, cause Unown...well, he's not THAT impressive. Sure, running 4 of them will improve your deck's consistency rather easily, since he basically counts as a free draw...but so does Shaymin-EX. Who can, you know, draw up to 6 cards. And be run in any deck, just like Unown. 

...actually, maybe that's the idea? 


Standard: 4/5 (...well, draw power is as draw power does; perhaps the improved consistencies of every deck in existence will show me up otherwise) 

Expanded: 4/5 (again, more draw power is good, and heck, I'm sure there are older decks that deserve more draw power) 

Limited: 5/5 (...yeah, draw power is good) 

Arora Notealus: If you check the Unowns in the picture, you'll note that they spell out, "Nanda?" starting on the left and rotating clockwise. For any of you who speak Japanese, that means, "What?" Even Unown's wondering what he's supposed to do! 

Next Time: And then there was light shining forth from a ring of...whoa, what the heck are you?!


We are only about halfway through the list and I’m already falling behind!  So other than a quick note that yesterday’s CotD should go up later today (if it isn’t already up by the time you’re reading this one) I’m going to try to stay focused.  Yup, laser-like fo- “The Yadon Song” has been officially dubbed and released as “The Slowpoke Song” ?! 

Unown is one of those Pokémon that is all about its Ability “Farewell Letter”, to the point where even I am going to cover that aspect of it first: at any time during your turn, you may activate Farewell Letter, discarding Unown and all cards attached to it in order to draw a card (which does not count as Unown being Knocked Out).  So in short the “Symbol Pokémon” is actually the “placeholder Pokémon” as you can replace itself with the next card in your deck when that would prove worthwhile.  The rest of the card helps explain why that is so useful.  To begin with, this is a Basic Pokémon, and this set didn’t suddenly level the playing field: being a Basic is still the best.  In this case, Farewell Letter would be a lot less impressive if it were any other Stage because they require more effort to put into play; it is possible an Evolution or Restored Pokémon could make good use of the Ability but that would require some clever design work (or overly powerful).  Just being a Pokémon is also important because it becomes a universal opener you can get easily get out of your way, as well as some slightly more advanced usage we’ll touch upon later.  As the card is, you can just Bench it and leave it there (if you need something Benched) or discard it from in play via the Ability (unless those are shut down). 

Speaking of Abilities being shut down, that is one of the benefits of the Type: in Standard the main ways to shut off Abilities are Silent Lab and Bide Barricade - the Ability on Wobbuffet (XY: Phantom Forces 36/119) - but the latter doesn’t work on Psychic-Types like Unown.  The rest of the Psychic-Type benefits and drawbacks aren’t too big of a deal but on the off chance you have to attack with it and that necessitates going out of order again (this time interrupting another area of discussion) so just a quick heads up: for [C] it can use “Hidden Power” for 10 damage.  Yes, it is filler but every now and then you still might have to resort to it.  If/when you do, Dimension Valley can save you burning an Energy card on to attack and hitting something Psychic Weak… okay, that doesn’t mean much unless they are Psychic Weak and you’ve got a Muscle Band, but that isn’t as obscure a thing as you might think.  On the other hand a sufficient buff, you can’t touch something Psychic Resistant.  Again though, this is all rare enough that for the most part, only the immunity to Bide Barricade is going to really matter. 

The 60 HP is pretty small, though it is enough that Unown can sometimes just barely hold on against the usual suspects (incomplete set-ups, decks focused on attack effects and not damage).  It also makes it a legal Level Ball target and that might end up being important: Level Ball is replaced in hand by Unown which is replaced by the card you draw, so you still maintain your hand size but if thinning your deck was your goal, it has decreased by two cards instead of just one.  The Psychic Weakness is a bit of a bother: nothing major but there are a few somewhat commonly used Psychic-Types (soon to include Unown itself) that can take an unexpected OHKO due to it.  This would matter more except serious attackers (not even just the heavier hitters) should manage the feat before Weakness.  Likewise the lack of Resistance is mostly interesting because if it was there and the HP were higher, it could make for a mean wall, but neither is the case so let us move onto the Retreat cost of [C]: easy to pay and recover from if for some reason you just can’t get it out of the way with Farewell Letter. 

By now even if you were clueless going into the review, you should have Unown pretty well figured out.  In decks that remind us why “Turbo” used to be a general deck descriptor for the most aggressive strategies, if you find you have the “perfect” build but have slots leftover, congrats you’ve got something with which to fill them.  Pretty unlikely given all cards you could benefit from having in those slots, though so we’ll move onto the major (and more probable) use: decks that need more Pokémon in them but also need to be blisteringly fast.  The now banned Shiftry (BW: Next Destinies 72/99) that was turning Expanded into a bizarre form of 2-player solitaire where one player does everything while you sit there and hope they mess up or have bad luck so you don’t lose ran this card because it helped it mulligan less while adding another draw option.  A draw option with a simple, easily overlooked synergy for Shaymin-EX (XY: Roaring Skies 77/108, 106/108), Bicycle and other “Draw until you have X cards in hand” effects.  In fact, it has almost as much synergy with other major sources of draw power because you can get it out of your hand, use another draw effect, and then cash in on Unown to draw another card (or cards if you had multiples).  You can save it for after you use Professor Sycamore or Shaymin-EX or even something like Professor Birch. 

The natural synergy with most other popular forms of draw power isn’t going to earn this a place in all decks, but when you get to decks such as those built around Flareon (BW: Plasma Freeze 12/116) or Vespiquen (XY: Ancient Origins 10/98) it is likely to be a staple.  Being useful in general plus having added specific usage is only bested by having great general usage, plus Expanded has just a few more “specific use” options.  Unown is a “must run” for Limited play unless you pull something like a Basic Pokémon-EX worth running as your only Basic (to ensure you open with it).  Outside of such “=39” decks you should have some extra space to fill. 


Standard: 4/5 

Expanded: 4.25/5 

Limited: 4.9/5 

Summary: First card on this list that I’ve scored so high and it might seem a bit odd.  As is often the case, the score is reflecting general usage as well as deck specific.  In general Unown is a solid card that in a lot of TCGs would be a universal staple; here it gets crowded out of most decks because there are always things like TecH to fill in the last few open slots of an otherwise cohesive deck… most of the time.  Throw in the decks where it is at least a somewhat important piece of support, and I think it earns those high marks I gave it. 

For the collective top 10 list, Unown managed 11 points from voting, enough to tie with M Ampharos-EX for seventh place but still only four points more than the 16th place card that didn’t even make our list.  On my personal list I had it in fifth place and both was and still am worried that I had it too low.  Factoring in its combination of general and specific usage, this might technically be the best card in the set.

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