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Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day


Smeargle #8/90

- HS Undaunted

Date Reviewed:
Aug. 3, 2016

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Legacy: 4.75
Limited: 3.95

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

Back to the main COTD Page


So what's the deal with this beagle? 

Whose name is Smeargle? 

And whose attack is really subpar-oh of course it's the Ability. 

No matter where you are in Legacy, Smeargle is probably one of those Pokemon that'll be really amazing and show up a lot. Its Ability is definitely of note...actually, no, that's not an Ability. It's in the same spot as the Ability, but it's actually titled as a "Poke-Power". Now Poke-Powers are something that have gone as far back as the original Base Set, and it's really important to note that they are NOT Abilities. They may take the same place as Abilities, and they may at times be as powerful as some Abilities, but for effects referring to Abilities, Poke-Powers do not count. 

As I recall Poke-Powers, they usually turn off when the Pokemon is affected by a Special Condition, and such is the case with Smeargle. Portrait lets you take a look at your opponent's hand and use the effect of a Supporter in it as the effect of the Power. The only caveats are that Smeargle can't be affected by a Special Condition, and he needs to be in the Active spot. Not too hard to work around, especially with Float Stone and Keldeo-EX around. 

You should never really use Smeargle's Tail Rap for 2 Energy dealing 0-40 damage based on coin flips, but having Smeargle hit up the paint section for Portrait is amazing. It's essentially allowing you to play up to two Supporters in a turn - one of your own, and one from your opponent's hand! Even if they don't have a Supporter card, you still end up with a good peek at what they've got going on. What's more, Smeargle also has the advantage of a low Retreat Cost to work with Skyarrow Bridge, meaning he can get in, Portrait a Supporter, and get out real fast in a number of ways. 

Give him a whirl and see how much crazier things can get! 


Legacy: 4.5/5 (I'd rate him higher if his HP were just a bit more and he had a better attack) 

Limited: 4/5 (though what Supporters are abound will affect your plays as much as your opponent's) 

Arora Notealus: Always had a little soft spot for these crazy sketch artists...if it weren't for that one Pokemon Randomizer incident where I ran into a Gym Leader's last Pokemon being a Smeargle with only Struggle - even though they could learn Low Kick!! @_@ 



If you skipped Monday's and Tuesday’s reviews, know that this is Legacy Week, where we are covering some of the general usage cards for the Legacy Format.  If you want a more detailed explanation of the Legacy Format just click here. The short version is that it is an exclusive format for the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online (PTCGO), to provide a good place for its users to enjoy their older cards.  The PTCGO has no sets that predate HeartGold/SoulSilver, but new card interactions made its “Unlimited Format” pretty bad (just not as much as the real Unlimited Format).  The Legacy Format consists of all releases from the HeartGold/SoulSilver series, Call of Legends, and Black & White series.  The Legacy Format creates something unusual not just for Pokémon but most ongoing TCGs: a stable card pool.  No rotation to lose older cards, and new releases don’t affect it either.  As I found out I enjoyed it, I’d like to see the Legacy Format at least recognized by the official tournament floor rules like the 30-Card, 2-On-2, and Team Battle alternate rules, which are not legal for a sanctioned Play! Pokémon tournament but are allowed for side events. 

Today we look at Smeargle (HS: Undaunted 8/90; Call of Legends 21/95).  It is a Colorless Pokémon; though there is no Colorless Weakness or Resistance in the BW-era cards, there are some of each in the HS-era releases.  Spoiler warning: We aren’t going to be using Smeargle to attack (unless very, very desperate) so it shouldn’t matter.  Type support and counters aren’t likely to matter much either, but if you run Aspertia City Gym you can get a +20 to this card’s HP and if your opponent is running Haxorus (BW: Dragon Vault 16/20) its first attack will do an extra 60 damage for a OHKO (keep in mind, said attack was only 10 short of a OHKO anyway).  Being a Basic is the best and this time, all the benefits I usually list matter.  Not a surprise that requiring minimal space, time, and effort to hit the field is useful, but as we’ll see Smeargle is very useful as an opening Pokémon, which it can naturally do as a Basic.  There is also a particular piece of Basic Pokémon support that will also prove especially relevant, though it isn’t essential to the card (hint: it involves the Retreat Cost). 

The 70 HP is small but still bigger than it looks.  Your opponent can pretty easily score a OHKO once his or her set up is complete (barring decks that aren’t focused on damaging the Active, of course).  Early game though it is just big enough that only the most aggressive decks will score a OHKO, and even then it will require a decent set up.  Remember, there is no Muscle Band here, though there are some other damage buffs that can allow a simple combo to score a OHKO on the second turn of the game; better than in Expanded or Standard where that is a given for most decks.  Weakness is one of those potential buffs, but again it’s safer than in the modern card pool.  Strength Energy is an XY-era thing, so most Fighting Types will need Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym to score the OHKO (if they can do it at all) on the second or third turn of the game.  Landorus-EX just needs the Hypnotoxic Laser and while that is not good, again Fighting Weakness is far less devastating here than in Expanded or Standard.  Lack of Resistance is typical; I’m not sure -20 damage in a single matchup would have really mattered, and Normal Types aren’t known for Resistance anyway in the video games, so moving on we come to the Retreat Cost.  Normally [C] is very good, and technically it still is; a single Energy is usually easy to pay and to recover from having paid, but Smeargle has something that will make retreating for free important.  Besides the more general tricks like Float Stone, Smeargle can use Skyarrow Bridge to zero out its Retreat Cost. 

Why is it so important for a card I said was a great opener to get back to your Bench?  Smeargle has a Poké-Power called “Portrait”.  Once per turn while Smeargle is your Active Pokémon and before you attack, Portrait allows you to look at your opponent’s hand and select a Supporter you find there.  Portrait then copies the effect of that Supporter.  This card required a lot of rules clarifications, and they are so relevant I’m just going to list the rulings in this review: 

Q. Can I use Smeargle's "Portrait" Poke-POWER if I have already used a Supporter this turn?

A. Yes, you are not playing a second Supporter, you are just using the Supporter's effect as the effect of the power. (HS:Undaunted FAQ; Sep 9, 2010 PUI Rules Team) 

Q. When I use Smeargle's "Portrait" Poke-POWER to look at my opponent's hand, can I terminate the power's effect without choosing a Supporter card?

A. No, you cannot. You must choose a Supporter card when you use the effect if the opponent has one in their hand. (HS:Undaunted FAQ; Sep 9, 2010 PUI Rules Team) 

Q. When using Smeargle's "Portrait" Poke-POWER, can I choose a Supporter that will have no effect?

A. You cannot pick a supporter you couldn't normally use; for example you can't choose "Twins" unless you are behind on prizes at that time, nor Aaron's Collection if you don't have anything in your Discard Pile. You would have to choose a different Supporter if one is available. (Dec 9, 2010 PUI Rules Team) 

Q. What happens if I use Smeargle's "Portrait" Poke-POWER, but I cannot satisfy the conditions of any of my opponent's Supporters?

A. You get to look at the opponent's hand, and that's all. (Dec 9, 2010 PUI Rules Team) 

Q. If I use Smeargle's "Portrait" Poke-POWER and find "Engineer's Adjustments" in my opponent's hand, do I have to use it if I have an Energy card in my hand?

A. Yes, if you have an energy card and you choose Engineer's Adjustments, you have to discard the energy and draw 4 cards. (Dec 9, 2010 PUI Rules Team; Mar 17, 2011 PUI Rules Team)

So this Poké-Power will always at least give you a glance at your opponent’s hand.  If you hit a Supporter you can use but would rather not, the only way you can avoid selecting it is if there is another valid Supporter in hand.  This was a bit safer back when this card was new; only towards the very end of its legality did we have Professor Juniper, so you at worst might shuffle away some cards you wanted to keep in hand.  There is now also N which could help your opponent out by shuffling away a bad hand (and you’ll know since you get to see your opponent’s hand right before), or leave you with a smaller and thus probably worse hand (early game, you should still get a decent draw).  Another danger is Seeker, and older Supporter from the HS-era; it has each player bounce a Benched Pokémon to hand; can help you win the game if you hit it at the right time, but it can also force you to return say a Stage 2 you Evolved with Rare Candy that was loaded with Energy cards you can’t easily reattach.  However the “average” and “great” results outweigh these nightmare scenarios, especially as you will often be able to take measures to reduce the risk, like using up your hand before risking Portrait. 

If you are wondering what a “Poké-Power” is, you probably need to read that article I wrote.  Leaving a lot out, Poké-Powers are a lot like Abilities except the game considers them two separate things.  Poké-Powers usually have a clause stating that Special Conditions disable them and Portrait is no exception; if Smeargle is Asleep, Burned, Confused, Paralyzed, or Poisoned it won’t work.  Hypnotoxic Laser makes this far more likely than I recall from the time Smeargle spent legal in Standard play.There are effects to shutdown Poké-Powers in the HS-era card pool, but I haven’t encountered anyone using them.  Garbotoxin on Garbodor (BW: Dragons Exalted 54/124; BW: Plasma Freeze 119/116; BW: Legendary Treasures 68/113) can shut down all Abilities, but does nothing to Poké-Powers which can add further value to Portrait.  Smeargle also has an attack called “Tail Rap” for [CC]; it has you flip two coins and Smeargle does 20 damage per “heads”.  This is filler, but not awful filler, at least remembering that in this card pool, an average of 20-for-two is less often outclassed.  If you do get desperate, it may be worth attacking with Smeargle to finish something off. 

Not all decks use Smeargle, but most want to, with the only true exception something with such a complex, sensitive setup that it cannot risk hitting a card like N or Professor Juniper at the wrong time.  So maybe something like decks built around “Deck and Cover”, the attack on Accelgor (BW: Dark Explorers 11/108); not only might there be a lack of room in both the deck and the Bench, but discarding a resource at the wrong time or having your lock spoiled because you just hit yourself with N while you had only one Prize left can easily cost you the game.  Other decks may find themselves simply too crowded; I can’t speak for “good” lists, but even though I would want Smeargle in my Rayeels deck, there just isn’t the room for that, Eelektrik (BW: Noble Victories 40/101), Rayquaza-EX (BW: Dragons Exalted 85/124, 123/124; BW: Black Star Promos BW47) and the typical additional support the deck may require.  Rayeel decks are going to want at least two Eelektrik on the Bench (preferably three), an attacker, and either a spare attacker or Keldeo-EX (with Float Stone) to help with reloading the main attacker (most in this deck discard their Energy).  That leaves one, maybe two Bench spots but a spare attacker, third or even four Eelektrik, or a place to have used a Jirachi-EX are often needed. 

Deck space is a bit more common a concern, and the other is getting Smeargle out of the way.  As you cannot attack first (you could when Smeargle was Standard legal), you aren’t losing an attack if it is stuck Active T1, but if you went second you might be missing a valuable opportunity.  Not much you can do about the former: shock of shocks, deck space is at a premium in the Legacy Format just like in almost all others.  The Retreat Cost can be addressed by several things, many of which are likely already in the deck.  Trainers are the easiest: Float Stone to give Smeargle a free retreat cost, Switch, Escape Rope or a few others to get it out of the Active slot without retreating.  While the others are one-and-done effects, they do allow you the tantalizing possibility should you have an additional Smeargle with Portrait of pulling off an effective third Supporter for the turn.  With Float Stone, your opponent has to worry about you getting a bonus Supporter every time you have a Switch (or the like) to spare and of course every time he or she takes a KO; just promote Smeargle, go about your business, Portrait if it seems like a good move, then retreat for free (remember, this was with Float Stone).  There are some great Abilities as well: the “Dark Cloak” Ability on Darkrai-EX (BW: Dark Explorers 63/108, 107/108; BW: Black Star Promos BW46; BW: Legendary Treasures 88/113) means you just have to get a [D] Energy on Smeargle and it can retreat for free, while “Rush In” on Keldeo-EX allows it to force itself Active… which you should already know, as these are still heavily used in Expanded play. 

One last reason that you might not run Smeargle is because you’ve got a different opener eating up the space.  This isn’t a guarantee though as sometimes they can effectively team up.  I’ve seen decks use Smeargle alongside Celebi (HS: Triumphant 92/102), where the latter also is used for its “while Active” Poké-Power that allows you to attach an extra [G] Energy card from hand to one of your Benched Pokémon.  Even if you had to use up your manual Energy attachment on Smeargle so it could retreat, you can still send up Cleffa (BW: HeartGold/SoulSilver 17/123; HS: Black Star Promos HGSS12 Call of Legends 24/95) or Pichu (HeartGold/SoulSilver 28/123).  These two Pokémon have attacks that cost no Energy to use and are useful to open the game as they have effects on par with a Supporter.  We’ll cover more of one of these three openers tomorrow.  The biggest reason I have seen for people not running Smeargle is that they just don’t have one (yet); it is an in demand card and a Holo-Rare.  At least it appears in two different sets. 

Smeargle is very good in the Legacy Format, but I don’t think it would be as useful in at least the current Standard and Expanded Formats.  Why?  Besides the fact that it would not get a straight up reprint but an “update” that would give it an Ability instead of a Poké-Power, we have Battle Compressor, Versus Seeker, and Shaymin-EX (XY: Roaring Skies 77/108, 106/108) in these formats and it has changed how we build our decks.  Not only do we have fewer Supporters being run, but a more diverse selection.  You have additional opportunities sure, but additional risk of backfiring: AZ can force you to bounce once of your cards (and attached cards don’t come along for the ride this time), Delinquent could force you to discard your own Stadium (and discarding from your opponent’s hand could backfire as well), Hex Maniac could turn off Abilities when you want them left on, Xerosic could force you to discard your own Special Energy or Pokémon Tool card, etc.  Smeargle looks like a great pull for Limited play though; the lower average HP score means its own 70 HP goes further and its attack effectively hits harder.  All Colorless requirements make it easier to work into your deck, and a single Energy Retreat cost is still good here.  You’ll mostly just be getting a look at your opponent’s hand with Portrait, but that knowledge tends to do you more good here as well.  Of course, actually having a chance to use cards this old for Limited play is a rare, pricey treat. 


Standard: N/A 

Expanded: N/A 

Limited: 5/5 

Legacy: 3.9/5 

So using Smeargle comes with a significant risk but for an even more significant reward.  It is a card you may not always use but which you’ll wish you could.  You probably won’t ever need a full playset, but try to get at least one (preferably two).  If you want a look at how it was used back when it was Standard legal, the CotD crew reviewed it three different times.  Smeargle was less impressive at first owing to even more competition for being an opener, but one of those reviews is the fifth place position for the Top 10 Cards of 2010.  Also you can get a laugh with old Otaku reviews (that make me cringe when I read them now).

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