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Yu Yu Hakusho
Harry Potter
Vs. System

Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day


Rocket's Zapdos
- Gym Challenge

Date Reviewed:
July 27, 2017

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


Man, now here's a flashback. Gym Challenge, wayyyyyyyyyy back in the day. Talk about a different time. Really makes you appreciate how old you are sometimes, you know? 

Anywho, Rocket's Zapdos is interesting. He's got one of the earliest Energy retrieval types of Abilities I can even recall, outside of Mewtwo. Plasma is a 1-for-20 move that also attaches an Electric Energy in your discard pile to Zapdos if you have any...yeah, older wording would explain these sorts of things before they didn't have to be explained. 20 damage in those days was also a lot higher, as you might given that he's only got 70 HP himself. 

Speaking of 70, that's how much Electroburn does! For the time, it's reasonably priced at 4-for-70, considering this could one-shot most of the available Pokemon at the time, and it wasn't too bad since Plasma could charge it faster with the aid of Professor Oak. The main issue? The drawback is that Rocket's Zapdos takes 10 damage for every Electric Energy attached to him. It's already guaranteed to deal 30 damage back to Zapdos, just based on the Electric Energy in the cost of Electroburn, but assuming you're running it in a pure Electric deck, it's likely to deal 40 - which is half of Rocket Zapdos's HP. 

...yeah, not worth it. 

You might get lucky enough to KO 2 of your opponent's Pokemon before Rocket's Zapdos KOs itself, but if you're not charging off of Plasma fast enough, you'll just end up behind and start losing HP, limiting your usage of Electroburn. Healing Trainer cards become essential (there were no Items technically in those days), and you have to be able to at least go 2-for-1 for the most value out of him. Otherwise, you'll want to at least go 1-for-1 with Electroburn taking your opponent's Pokemon out at the same time you lose Rocket's Zapdos.  

But at that point...I believe there are better Pokemon to use. 


Standard: N/A (it's like having a Pokemon that halves it HP when it attacks) 

Expanded: N/A (all just to deal its HP back) 

Limited: 3/5 (if it were an EX, that'd be cool...but that wouldn't be worth half its HP) 

Arora Notealus: If a card like Rocket's Zapdos came out in today's modern game, I doubt it would see play. Even some of the lower end cards that don't see much play these days would do better than Rocket's Zapdos. And that's mainly just cause of the changes in designing cards, the power ceiling getting raised higher and higher, and the damage outputs being pushed upwards more and more. It's a very different game, and cards like Rocket's Zapdos are even more outdated for it. 

Next Time: And to finish off our Electric Week is...wait...you're not an Electric type!


This Throwback Thursday we’re traveling back to the early days of the game.  Not quite the earliest, but close to it as we look at Rocket’s Zapdos (Gym Challenge 15/132).  Gym Challenge expansion seventh expansion released in North America (yes, I count Base Set 2), officially released on October 16, 2000; if you’re new to the game, this isn’t quite two full years into the game and the second ever Card of the Day, back when it was just Ness doing the writing.  Fair warning, while I often am just struggling to remember what I experienced first hand, or at least could put together after the fact, that doesn’t apply here.  For various reasons, I know of this card’s glory days, but I don’t even have good secondhand data, just thirdhand reading the reports of others who saw it doing well… and were usually kids who weren’t good at writing, weren’t good at the game, or weren’t good at either.  Still, there are enough fundamentals I remember from the time that I think my usual card vivisection ought to suffice.  Something to remember throughout this review is that Rocket’s Zapdos entered the game in the Base Set through Gym Challenge era of Unlimited Format play, experienced the failure (?) that was Prop 15-3, and eventually became part of the original “Rocket-On” Modified Format of 2001-2002 that would mostly be dominated by Feraligatr (Neo Genesis 5/111).  I believe people kept using it throughout but its glory days are from those early Unlimited Format days. 

Let us start with the name: Rocket’s Zapdos is a Pokémon with an “owner” in its name.  As far as the game is concerned, this means it is a totally separate entity from “plain” Zapdos cards; you can have up to four of each in your deck, and the only way an effect applies to both of them is if the wording includes each e.g. an effect that references Rocket’s Zapdos would not apply to Zapdos and vice versa.  There are some cards that support “Rocket’s” Pokémon but they actually released about four years later long after this card was gone from the Modified Format and (possibly) after its time being competitive in the Unlimited Format.  Rocket’s Zapdos is a Lightning-Type at a time when there was barely any proper Type-support and no real Type-counters, though perhaps there were and they are just so bad I’m spacing them off.  It was a good Type for exploiting Weakness, though; not as great as Fighting or Psychic, but good.  Resistance was a bit of a pain, though not especially common.  Being a Basic was still the best back then, and for almost identical reasons; fastest to the field, most space efficient, and a natural synergy with various card effects and game rules.  I don’t recall if there was any Basic Stage support, but there were Basic Stage counters and yet the Stage was still the best. 

70 HP was actually the “magic number” back then.  How?  It was the amount that made it very difficult for an opponent to win via donk… and some of you may have no clue what that term means.  The short version is that a donk occurs when a player wins on his or her first turn by KOing the opponent’s only Pokémon in play.  Haymaker decks utilizing Electabuzz (Base Set 20/102; Base Set 2; 24/130; Best of Game 1, Platinum 128/127) and Hitmonchan (Base Set 7/102; Base Set 2 8/130; Best of Game 2; Platinum 129/127) weren’t focused on the donk, but often enough enjoyed a win due to it, as they usually were packing up to four copies of PlusPower.  Actual donk decks would employ the one and only Erika’s Jigglypuff, but it requires a Double Colorless Energy to fuel its “Pulled Punch” attack and three PlusPower.  What about bigger attacks?  This was a time when [C] paid for 10 damage and [X] - non-[C] Energy requirement - bought 15 damage (rounded either up or down to the nearest whole unit of 10).  Energy Removal and Super Energy Removal and/or Gust of Wind with a OHKO made it hard to get an Evolution out and attacking.  Put the two together, and few decks could reliably dole out 70 damage turn after turn.  120 HP was also the maximum printed HP for everything, though scaling gets a bit iffy as there weren’t mechanics like Pokémon-GX or Pokémon-EX at this time. 

Third paragraph (fourth if I include the introduction) and we are only just getting to the bottom stats; the joy of explaining the game as it was 20 years ago, dear readers.  Rocket’s Zapdos had no Weakness, and it might have been an even bigger deal back then versus now because of almost everything we just discussed with respect to HP.  Fighting Resistance -30 was significant back then; Haymaker was no longer the king but it remained competitive and popular.  Hitmonchan was now second fiddle but still there to help with early game damage output and punish the Fighting Weak.  Most Lightning-Types - like fellow Haymaker alumni Electabuzz - were Fighting Weak, so suddenly Lightning-Type decks could stay on-Type but wall against Fighting-Types.  The Retreat Cost of [CC] wasn’t cheap, but it wasn’t chunky enough to be a major issue; this was at a time when you still had Scoop Up and Switch (at least, pre-Modified Format).  Even in Modified, you could use Warp Point (Escape Rope by another name) to vacate the Active Position. 

At last, we come to this card’s attacks: “Plasma” for [L] and “Electroburn” for [LLLC].  While it couldn’t make good use of Double Colorless Energy, we have as inexpensive an attack as we’d see at the time with as expensive an attack as we’d see at that time, so at least we knew Rocket’s Zapdos could start doing something right away.  20-for-one is high-functioning filler right now, barring good combos or a good effect, and Plasma had both, for this attack allowed Rocket’s Zapdos to do some damage while attaching a [L] Energy from your discard pile to itself.  Like now, there weren’t any cards that provided [L] while in the discard pile except basic Lightning Energy, but unlike now, this was a great deal.  Let’s consider the differences; we’ve already established that HP scores across the board were lower, damage output was also lower, speed was faster because you could attack first turn, and Energy Removal/Super Energy Removal made Crushing Hammer (and friends) seem like slackers.  Now add to it that most old-school Trainers are better than their contemporary counterparts, largely because all but Stadium cards (still quite new at this time) were played like Item cards because this was before Supporters.  A few would have Supporter-like restrictions built in, but most didn’t.  Computer Search and Item Finder (under the name Dowsing Machine) were here but not Ace Specs.  Professor Juniper/Professor Sycamore was also here, but as Professor Oak (and again, played like an Item).  Gust of Wind is Pokémon Reversal sans the coin flip (or pre-errata, if you prefer).  Plenty of ways to get [L] Energy into the discard pile, some of which belonged to your opponent. 

So Plasma was great, but what about Electroburn?  It did 70 damage, which is terrible by modern standards, but pretty good back then.  [LLLC] should buy 15+15+15+10 or 55 damage: Electroburn does 15 more than that, so what’s the catch?  Besides how I keep warning you about Energy Removal and quick KO’s, the attack makes Rocket’s Zapdos do 10 damage times the number of [L] Energy cards attached to itself, to itself!  Nothing at this time could provide [LLL] for a single Energy card, and while you could use Electrode (Base Set 21/102; Base Set 2 25/130) to provide [LL], giving up a Prize to avoid doing 10 points of self-damage is more than a little counterproductive.  The trick here was another Trainer that debuted in Base Set: Defender.  Like PlusPower (at the time), it was a “normal” Trainer that attached to your Pokémon, though it wasn’t restricted to just your Active.  As the name might suggest, this reduced the damage you took from attacks (by Pokémon belonging to either player).  This card would soak 20 damage (after Weakness/Resistance), and the effect lasted until Defender discarded itself at the end of your opponent’s next turn.  So attach one of these to Rocket’s Zapdos and Electroburn would only inflict 10 points of self-damage plus any attack made by your opponent’s Pokémon against that Rocket’s Zapdos would do 20 less; even with the self-damage which got through, your opponent had to do 10 more damage to break even!  Then, in Neo Genesis we got the original Special Energy version of Metal Energy; unlike its final counterpart, this version would soak 10 damage (per copy) when attached to Pokémon of any Type (not just Metal) but if it wasn’t a Metal-Type, then the attacks of that Pokémon did 10 less damage. 


That sounds like a drawback, but it meant that a single Metal Energy reduced your self-damage by 10, plus the damage you took from an opponent’s attack by 10 while Electroburn still did 60 damage; this was pretty slick at the time!  Neo Genesis also introduced Focus Band and Gold Berry, so Rocket’s Zapdos was in good shape in Unlimited.  In Modified, it lost so much of what it needed; even though a partial replacement for Defender was there, it now lacked Energy Removal and Super Energy Removal to slow down or even prevent an opponent’s heavy hitters from ever getting a chance to swing away… which meant that even if it managed to fry a Totodile or two first, sooner or later a Feraligatr would get setup and begin to steamroll with its “Riptide” attack, which usually could reliably and repeatedly score OHKO’s, even within the constraints of the cardpool.  Even if the Rocket’s Zapdos player took an early lead, I’m thinking the Feraligatr player is catching up and then pulling ahead, because it would no longer be safe for Rocket’s Zapdos to power itself up while Active.  I mentioned another format earlier, Prop 15-3.  This restricted players to no more than 15 Trainer cards in one’s deck and no more than three copies of any non-basic Energy card.  It was tried before a rotating format (what we have now with Standard), and while it changed things, it wasn’t enough (hence Standard).  I also don’t have any information on how Rocket’s Zapdos performed in it; it would have been one of the decks Prop 15-3 was intended to bring under control (it ran a lot of Trainer cards) but 15 Trainers in a slower format was still conducive to Haymaker, so the deck might have somehow managed with such restrictions. 


Standard: N/A 

Expanded: N/A 

Limited: 5/5 


Rocket’s Zapdos was an amazing attacker, and with our focus on Lightning-Types this week, I thought it a fitting pick for our Throwback Thursday.  This Pokémon had great stats and two attacks that comboed magnificently well together while also taking advantage of both familiar and less used Trainer cards.  It would be pretty bad if reprinted, but might be good if “modernized”.  They actually did that once before, with Rocket’s Zapdos-ex, though that card is only four years newer than Rocket’s Zapdos itself.


Today’s Throwback Thursdays is Rocket Zapdos!  I haven’t own this card or even use it.  However, I can try to think how this was used back then.  Since this card was from Gym Challenge, I believe HP scores and damage output is far lower than modern days.  Plasma costs L for 20 damage and retrieves a L energy from the discard to this Pokemon.  This kind of attack is amazing back then and probably still good now.  Electroburn is Rocket’s Zapdos big attack; a hefty 70 damage for LLLC, which would take care of ALL basics and most stage 1s back in the day.  The drawback is that Rocket’s Zapdos would take 10 damage for every L energy attached to this Pokemon, making it a glass cannon.


If it were legal now, I really don’t know, unfortunately.  I guess Rocket’s Zapdos would have to get it’s HP and damage output updated to keep up with power creep, just like most cards from the XY Evolutions set.  I can assume that it would have around 100-120 HP, Plasma would do 30 for L, and Electroburn would do 150 for LLLC with the same self damage but 20 instead of 10 for each L energy attached to this Pokemon.




Standard: N/A


Expanded: N/A


Limited: 4/5 (no energy removal in this set)


Unlimited: 3/5 

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