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Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day


 Magcargo #23

- Primal Clash

Date Reviewed:
March 9, 2015

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Standard: 2.13
Expanded: 2.00
Limited: 3.63

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

Back to the main COTD Page


Looks like it's a Fire Week to follow up from our Grass Week! And today's card...is Magcargo. I'd love to be excited about Magcargo and say how he's the greatest thing since Slugma, but...he's not good. And we get to look at the two versions of him in Primal Clash! 

This first one is notable for not having an Ancient Trait on him (whereas the other one does). His attacks are...okay. You've got Flame Burst, which is cheap and does cheap damage at 20 plus another 20 on a Bench-sitter for 1. That's alright for spreading things around, but otherwise...not that great. Let's face it, Darkrai-EX has perfected the art of sniping, and Primal Kyogre-EX turned monstrous on the idea. You think Flame Burst is gonna impress anyone? 

And then there's good ol' Flamethrower, at 3-for-90 and a discard. I remember seeing this effect way back in Base Set on things like Charmeleon, only back then it only did around 50 damage - another example of how power creep has affected the game. At the very least, Magcargo shows potential to 2HKO anything that won't kill it in one turn. Just be prepared to have some Energy handy or a Blacksmith at the ready. 

Other than that, his only benefit is that he's a Stage 1 with 120 HP (which honestly is on the higher end). He's gonna be slow, not very powerful till late, and chances are if he's going up against something super-powerful, he ain't gonna be around for very long. Welcome to the Pokemon TCG, where every Pokemon gets a chance to shine! 

As a foil. 


Standard: 2/5 (nothing really stands out about him, but at least he can 2HKO a bunch of stuff...yeah) 

Expanded: 2/5 (of course you've got better options) 

Limited: 3/5 (that 2HKO can OHKO a decent chunk of the set, so really it depends what you're going up against - and of course what you get) 

Arora Notealus: Magcargo's a really interesting Pokemon. He's a snail made of magma! How unique is that! Granted, his body is supposed to be 18,000' F (10,000' C), which to give you an idea is hotter than the surface of the sun - so no cuddling with this guy! 

Next Time: How bout we take a look at the Ancient Trait version?


I’m all fired up!  Time to binge watch some Fairy Tail… wait, that isn’t right!*  Instead its time to begin our Fire Week for XY: Primal Clash.  Unlike with the Grass-Types, there are a lot fewer Fire-Types and we already covered one of them, Camerupt-EX.  I’ll be dissecting these cards to the best of my ability while also looking at what I can (easily) find for their current competitive state and if we can refine things in the heat of the hypothetical instead of having to wait for someone to prove it tournament play. 

We begin this week with Magcargo (XY: Primal Clash 23/160).  In terms of Weakness/Resistance Fire-Types are in a good place; the vast majority of Grass-Type and Metal-Type Pokémon are Fire Weak and nothing is Fire Resistant (since we aren’t discussing Unlimited, anyway).  VirGen decks aren’t making as strong a showing lately so unless something else picks up the slack, it won’t be as nice as it might have been even just a set ago, but it will still be good.  The Fire-Type has some direct and indirect support, such as the Supporter Blacksmith (direct as it only works with Fire-Type Pokémon) and indirect (cards like Fiery Torch which works with Fire Energy or Scorched Earth which works with Fighting Energy or Fire Energy, and doesn’t care about Pokémon Types).  Certainly not in the same league as the Fighting-Type, but it isn’t being neglected.  The mixed blessing is that even with such support, the Fire-Type presence in the game has been pretty low; even with XY: Flashfire we only had one or two particularly good Fire-Type decks emerge and they haven’t had much of a presence since.  That means there isn’t likely anything obvious waiting for Magcargo, but also means it has less competition for the “Fire deck” niche. 

Being a Stage 1 slows it down a bit; feel free to “insert game pacing rant here” but know that this is a real drawback for the card but in and of itself doesn’t have to be fatal; there are Stage 1 cards currently or have recently proven competitive.  120 HP is adequate, possibly only just: still trying to get a feel for “the new normal” as we adjust to strategies popularized by the recent Regionals, both before and after XY: Primal Clash became legal for Organized Play.  With more Mega Evolutions becoming competitive and threatening to eventually become dominant, the numbers for damage and HP are both climbing again.  So while 120 HP used to be something it took luck or lots of resources or Weakness to easily hit, now you’ve got Night March decks that do it easily and without requiring Pokémon-EX (though some builds run Mew-EX) let alone juggernauts like M Aggron-EX, M Gardevoir-EX and Primal Groudon-EX that may take time to set-up, but once they get rolling it reminds us of the slight variance in the metagame when Black Kyurem-EX (BW: Plasma Storm 95/135) was staying well hydrated and lubricated by Blastoise (BW: Boundaries Crossed 31/149; BW: Plasma Storm 137/135; BW: Plasma Blast 16/101) and pretty much everything was a reliable OHKO once that combo was running.  Stepping back from the “biggest” hitters, Magcargo is just big enough to be a tricky OHKO without a lot of boost for most decks. 

Magcargo is Water Weak and that isn’t so good but also isn’t as bad as it could be.  Not unlike the Fire Weakness for the Grass-Types we looked at last week, the popular Water-Type attackers have decent odds of already scoring a OHKO or just saving themselves a little effort.  There are a few really problematic Water-Type attackers though; Seismitoad-EX and its Quaking Punch can score a OHKO via the combo it usually uses to try for a 2HKO against most other things (Muscle Band, Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym) and even without boosting Quaking Punch is a 2HKO.  Kyurem [Plasma] (BW: Plasma Freeze 31/116) loves to boost its Frost Spear attack and as it starts at 30, just +30 puts it into OHKO range while also hitting your Bench for 30 at the small cost of [WC] and some buffs (usually a combination of Muscle Band and Deoxys-EX).  Again, even without any help its a 2HKO.   No Resistance is normal so we’ll move onto the Retreat Cost: [CCCC] is something you never want to pay unless you have no real choice (so retreat-to-win/retreat-or-lose scenarios) so either be prepared for this to go down as your Active or pack plenty of retreat bypassing/Retreat Cost lowering options).  There is a slight benefit is that in Expanded you can tap Heavy Ball as support. 

Magcargo has two attacks.  For [R] it can use Flame Burst for 20 damage to your opponent’s Active Pokémon and 20 to two of your opponent’s Benched Pokémon of your choice (assuming they have that many).  As you would expect, Weakness and Resistance don’t apply for Bench hits, which unlike in most cases is a definite drawback here since nothing Resists Fire-Types so you’re just missing out on exploiting Weakness.  Still business as usual for such attacks though as applying Weakness/Resistance for Bench hits is rare.  In isolation, this looks like a pretty good attack, so let us compare and contrast it with Hammerhead found on Landorus-EX: for the same invest (one Energy of that card’s Type) both attacks do 60 total damage (before applying Weakness/Resistance, anyway), it is just Magcargo divides it up a bit more.  Unfortunately this comparison draws attention to the fact that the Fire-Type doesn’t have Strong Energy or Fighting Stadium equivalents to up its own damage, and since this is a single Energy attack Blacksmith is rarely going to be helpful.  I can see being a Stage 1 with 120 HP versus a Basic Pokémon-EX with 180 somewhat balancing out but experience is that it usually is in the favor of the Pokémon-EX. 

So what about the second attack?  For [RCC] Magcargo can use Flamethrower for 90 points of damage, though it requires you discard an Energy from it.  This is enough to 2HKO most Pokémon-EX, and if you add in a Silver Bangle it becomes enough to 2HKO anything that isn’t protected or healing in between attack, other than Wailord-EX.  There are even a few useful OHKOs sprinkled against the likes of Genesect-EX, Virizion-EX and M Aggron-EX (the latter requires Silver Bangle).  This was fairly good (though not even remotely great) a few years ago.  More recently, it would have been adequate: after all the card is Double Colorless Energy compliant so even without Blacksmith you could power it up quickly, and with Blacksmith you can actually get a bit ahead of Energy needs with a spare [R] attached should it survive to attack twice.  Still even then it would technically have been below the going rate, only offset by it either being OHKOed (so who cares about discarded Energy) or surviving just barely (which usually was reward enough with a non-Pokémon-EX): three for 90, preferably with a beneficial effect unless something else about the card justified its use with a slightly lower damage output.  Now… I’m not sure if three for 90 is still the going rate as we’ve got a lot of non-Pokémon-EX attackers so it isn’t as simple as (90+30)*2=240 damage and 2HKOed almost everything.  The attacks have some synergy with each other, but its mostly in their Energy costs as you can go from [R] to [RCC] so easily anymore, but the numbers a single use of each hit aren’t so great so you’ll need several uses of Flameburst (and/or more added onto the “combo”) to get the needed KOs. 

Before we move onto combos, let’s check out the rest of the (closely) related card pool.  There are currently three Slugma legal for either Expanded or Standard: XY: Kalos Starter Set 6/39, XY 20/146 and XY: Primal Clash 22/146.  All three are Basic, Fire-Type Pokémon with Water Weakness, no Resistance, no Abilities and no Ancient Trait.  XY: Kalos Starter Set 6/39 sports 80 HP, a Retreat Cost of [CC] and just one attack - Combustion - requiring [RC] doing 20 damage.  XY 20/146 has 70 HP and also a Retreat Cost of [CC] plus lone attack; this time its Flamethrower for [RCC], requiring a single Energy discard and hitting for 50.  Lastly is the set-mate to today’s card, XY: Primal Clash 22/146, which has 70 HP, a Retreat Cost of [CCC] and two attacks: the first is Grass Fire which requires [R] and does no damage but does discard a [G] Energy attached to your opponent’s Active.  Its second attack is Ram for [RCC], which does a vanilla 30 damage.  These lava slugs are both good and bad examples of card design; the version with the most HP has a weak, overpriced vanilla effect while the version that can hit the hardest and the version with a technical trick are a little smaller.  That is good.  What is bad is that none of what they do are good enough to warrant attacking with them; all the attacks are overpriced, especially the only one that slightly aids in survival (other than via scoring an unlikely KO): Grass Fire.  Attaching [R] just to discard an opponent’s [G] Energy if one is present on their Active might be a decent Ability, but its lame as an attack.  Even if we still had zero-Energy attacks.  Take the HP of XY: Kalos Starter Set 6/39 for what is it worth.

There are two other Magcargo; let’s see if XY 21/146 and XY: Primal Clash 24/160 are competition or combo buddies in deck building (or the depressing prospect of being neither).  Both are Stage 1 Fire-Types with 110 HP, Water Weakness, no Resistance, Retreat Cost [CCC], no Abilities and two attacks.  XY 21/146 has Magma Mantle for [RC], which hits for 30 and gives you the option of discarding the top card of your deck; if it is a [R] Energy its worth an additional 50 damage.  For [RRC] its Heat Blast hits for 80.  These are poor, which is probably why I didn’t even remember this card exists until I saw it while writing this review.  If you insisted, you could build a deck around this guy, mostly focusing on Magma Mantle which has a decent damage return when you can ensure you hit a top-decked Fire Energy but the same set-up could be used to better effect elsewhere (and still not be competitive).  Not sure if the attacks need to hit harder, the Energy costs need to be lower: probably both.  XY: Primal Clash 24/160 is tomorrow’s card; we’ll cover it in detail.  I think it slightly compliments today’s version but is also lacking. 

So… can you build a deck around Magcargo (XY: Primal Clash 23/160), yes but at best it will be a “functional fun deck” where you take a strategy that works better with something else like Landorus-EX or Pyroar (XY: Flashfire 20/106) and try to “make do”.  I actually did build a quick deck around it and got the disappointing results one might expect, but with one added problem; most Water-Type decks I encounter, be they good or bad, are rocking at least a few copies of Rough Seas: erasing up to 30 points worth of spread per Water- or Lightning-Type Pokémon you were damaging, as well as whatever was accumulating on the Active.  This is a bonus option these decks have for dealing with spread and 2HKOs, leaving Magcargo soaking wet.  I didn’t get a chance to try Crobat (XY: Phantom Forces 33/119) but I did start to build it and it has the space issues you would expect. 


Standard: 2.25/5 - Probably a bit high but this card does have a lot it does competently, but it needs “something else” to compete with the overpowered metagame of today. 

Expanded: 2/5 - A bit more support but a lot more competition. 

Limited: 4.25/5 - Finally a place to shine.  The main drawback is there is a lot of Water-Types in this set plus Rough Seas, Dive Ball and Fresh Water Set.  Without that its HP, spread, reliable damage and there being a second, alternate Magcargo to run plus neither version requiring more than a single Fire Energy to work (so running just a few should suffice instead of having to make your deck half Fire) actually makes for a great card.  Excluding if you were running a +39 deck, of course. 

Summary: I wanted to like Magcargo but that isn’t likely a surprise; I really want to like all cards.  Magcargo teases us by having a few things comparable to Landorus-EX and while being a Stage 1 versus a Basic Pokémon-EX might even out (but probably not), the difference in Type support ensures that Landorus-EX has once again found itself as the main attacker of yet another deck variant while Magcargo is going to have to be content being a good Limited pull or “better than pure filler” focus for a budget-beginner-deck. 

* I watch (and read) Fairy Tail via Crunchyroll.com.  I’m all caught up though so I won’t probably be binge watching or reading it again anytime soon.  Plus the “fanservice” (which is one of the series major characteristics) actually… isn’t my kind of thing.  Why reference Fairy Tail at all then?  Because its fun to do so.

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