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Yu Yu Hakusho
Harry Potter
Vs. System

Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day


Muscle Band

- XY

Date Reviewed:
Oct. 26, 2016

Ratings & Reviews Summary

See Below

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

Back to the main COTD Page


Our third place finisher is Muscle Band (XY 121/146); we’ve reviewed this card twice already.  The first time it was our top pick for the XY expansion, while the next it was our top pick for the year of 2014.  It isn’t too hard to see why it ranked so highly then and now: Muscle Band is a Pokémon Tool that increases the damage done by the attacks of the equipped Pokémon, providing a +20 damage bonus.  Being a Tool, it is also a Trainer and an Item card. 

As I’ve been stating a lot lately, being a Trainer is a good thing; some useful bits of general support (though not a lot) and the few general counters aren’t worth running.  Being an Item card is great as you aren’t limited to how many of those you may play in a turn (barring outside effects or costs specific to that Item) but it doesn’t come with much support and does come with several counters.  Being a Tool means more support and counters, but also a restriction on usage.  Tools need to be attached to a Pokémon in order to do anything, and most cards only have a single “slot” for it.  A few like Entei (XY: Ancient Origins 15/98) are noteworthy because of what they accomplished due to being allowed more than one Tool (in this case, two due to its “Θ Double” Ancient Trait).  Slight upside of being a Tool inherent to how they work is that if they do not discard themselves, they have an effect that either constantly applies or can be triggered multiple times should circumstances permit.  It also means that you can get around Item lock by simply playing your Pokémon Tool down before the Item lock hits, can block an opponent’s Pokémon Tool F cards by simply being in their way, but also carries the huge vulnerability of being discarded (either due to another card effect or the Pokémon in question being KO’d). 

Damage boosts are usually welcome, but remember that if it isn’t helping you take KOs more quickly or - much more obscure - clearing a certain damage threshold so that an effect does or does not apply, the damage boost doesn’t really matter.  If I increase my damage by 20 but that just means my 2HKO has a larger margin for error.  Again, you might have some situations where your opponent (for example) cannot make use of a certain effect because that Pokémon is too damaged, or some minor bit of healing won’t buy him or her an extra turn, but if a 3HKO doesn’t shift to a 2HKO or a 2HKO to a OHKO, that damage boost usually won’t matter.  Normally it isn’t worth focusing on lesser shifts like 4HKO to 3HKO, but there are some reasons why it has actually been quite important to Muscle Band: boosting damage from effect focused attacks and/or being stacked with other damage boosts.  When Muscle Band first released, Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym were still legal, and after its release we’ve gotten tricks like Giovanni’s Scheme or… well… the Fighting Type and its multitude of damage buffs.  Another important aspect of Muscle Band is doesn’t care what uses it or what it is used against.  When first released, Muscle Band completely replaced Dark Claw, which also provided +20 damage but only worked for Darkness Type Pokémon.  Silver Bangle was also available at this time, providing +30 but only against Pokémon-EX and not when attached to a Pokémon-EX. 

When first released, Muscle Band was pretty much a staple.  Not every Pokémon needed it, not every deck ran it, but most did.  You had exceptions for things like Silver Bangle, later for Mega Evolutions that needed their particular Spirit Link card, and now sometimes Fighting Fury Belt is more important.  Fighting Fury Belt adds only 10 extra damage, but that can still be enough to matter, and also adds +40 to your HP, which also often matters.  It doesn’t work for everything, however, only Basic Pokémon and in some decks, you need that +20 damage more than just +10 with +40 to HP.  So in Expanded play, Muscle Band is still a great card, though it has less of a metagame share simply because of the many potent Tools competing with it.  In Limited play, it is a must run.  In Standard, of course it is no longer legal, but what if it were suddenly reprinted?  It would most likely become a common deck sight, but probably not a staple; basically it would see play about like it does in Expanded, but with some attackers obviously not being legal, less competition, and most importantly, no Trainer based Tool removal. 


Standard: N/A 

Expanded: 4/5 

Limited: 5/5 

Summary: Muscle Band is not as good as when it first released, but who would have predicted Fighting Fury Belt?  Even with the competition this small, simple damage boost remains an amazing card and the go-to Pokémon Tool for many decks, let alone the ones built around specific combos.  Were it to be reprinted, that’s the same role it would have in Standard, only a bit better because of fewer Tools to compete against it being much more difficult to discard or block an opponent’s Pokémon Tools. 

Muscle Band secured third place with 40 voting points, only missing second place by two points, though first place beat it by 18!  Yesterday’s Night March trio only lost to Muscle Band by one point.  I had Muscle Band as my third place pick, so obviously I’m pretty pleased.  Muscle Band did not place highly on all three lists though, and I think I know why: there are still so many great Tools that were able to replace it or least cushion to the blow to existing and future decks.

Zach Carmichael

Damage-modifying cards have always been a big deal in the Pokémon TCG. Having played the game since the early days of Base set, I am all too familiar with how powerful Pluspower was, allowing players to score quick KOs thanks to that extra damage. Fast forward about 15 years and Muscle Band was released. It was quickly played in almost every deck thanks to the added damage without any drawbacks. Though it ultimately was overshadowed by Fighting Fury Belt – effectively a Pluspower with +40 HP boost – it will go down as a card that took the game to another level. 

Muscle Band was from the XY base set, coinciding with the theme of introducing brand new mechanics as Pokémon usually does. It is a Tool card that adds +20 damage to your Pokémon’s attacks. That’s it – no drawbacks whatsoever. Fighting Fury Belt adds only 10 damage, but provides a +40 HP boost, so it eventually took Muscle Band’s place. But at the time the card was a really big deal because that damage made certain math possible. Perhaps the best partner at the time was Yveltal-EX, which was a better Mewtwo-EX. Its Evil Ball attack did 20 damage plus 20 more for each Energy on both Active Pokémon. Adding Muscle Band made the card even stronger, allowing it to do 100+ damage for two Energy. It was also used in a number of Evolution decks, as Fighting Fury Belt had the drawback of only working on Basic Pokémon. 

Fighting Fury Belt is still the go-to damage modifier in Expanded. The extra 40 HP is absolutely necessary in a format where Night March can otherwise obliterate its competition, doing 200+ damage as early as the first turn. Muscle Band is often a one-of in decks like Seismitoad-EX/Giratina-EX because of the math to get KOs against certain Pokémon – players will often to a 2/1 split with Fighting Fury Belt for versatility.  


Standard: n/a

Expanded: 3/5

Limited: 4.5/5 

Summary: Muscle Band took the power creep of the Pokémon-EX era to another level. It allowed a number of cards to suddenly become playable thanks to the ability to then hit magic numbers for KOs. Eventually being phased out by Fighting Fury Belt, it will continue to see slight play in Expanded, but for the most part Muscle Band is now considered to be outdated.

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