– Team Up
February 26, 2019
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Basic Pokémon remains to be the best stage of a Pokémon card because of being easy to put into play – unlike Evolutions, which takes at least a turn or two – and taking less deck space since it takes only a single copy – again, unlike Evolutions which may require at least two to four cards to eventually get the pieces together. We’ve all used Basic Pokémon…for pretty much everything; even the game rule mandates at least one basic Pokémon in your deck! Reasons can include needing Basic Pokémon to evolve, as a main attacker, a Supporter, and maybe even more. However, they don’t last forever, so if your main basic Pokémon is damaged, and wanted to retreat to send another attacker, you could do just that.
Except Absol is making life hard for Basic Pokémon.
Why’s that? Well, Absol’s Dark Ambition Ability states that if your opponent’s Pokemon is a Basic Pokémon, it gets one more retreat cost. I believe this ability stacks, so if you had four of them, your opponent’s Basic Pokémon would have to pay CCCC more to retreat. With Pokémon’s retreat cost ranging from zero to four, that be a whopping four to eight retreat cost a basic Pokémon could have. This could mess up some strategies, as it makes Jirachi stranded, and not even Escape Board can wipe it. Only the very few can completely bypass the increased retreat cost such as Zeraora-GX in Standard or Float Stone in Expanded, so Absol’s trap might be futile.
It’s attack seems like it’s totally dependent on retreat cost, but it’s actually not that bad. For DCC, it does 30 damage plus 30 more damage for each retreat cost the Defending Pokemon had. If you were to put four of those Absol in play, that’s already 150 damage. Choice Band ramps it to 180 for EX/GX Pokemon. And possibly even more depending on the opponent’s Defending Pokémon retreat cost. One is 210, 2 is 240, 3 is 270, and 4 is 300 damage. Simply put, there are some targets you can naturally OHKO while you can’t on other targets, like most Stage 1s or 2s with higher end HP, though it can still put a dent on them. Again, the strength of synergy is also its downfall; Zeraora-GX or Float Stone ruins this damage output.
Overall, like yesterday’s card, this one contributes something instead of being filler. It catches Basic Pokémon off guard and punishes them by hitting them very hard. However, I may have to dock some points off in Expanded because of Float Stone. In Limited, it is a good pull IF you pull as many copies as you can pull within four packs, and what you’re facing against is a hit or miss. If you’re against Basic Pokémon, then you’ll have a easier time, but if you’re up against Evolutions, then you’ll have a hard time.
Absol (TEU 88) returns to the Pokemon TCG in the Team Up expansion set and has caused me to say:
Why you no good, lily-livered, toad hugging, yellow bellied, pig kissing, bow legged…
Why you gotta do that Absol? Why do you have to come in and make my Jirachi practically worthless? All I want to do is promote my Jirachi after my opponent KO’s one of my Pokemon, grab the best Trainer Card I can find there, and then use Escape Board to retreat back into whatever feature Pokemon I’m playing that will blast my opponent’s active Pokemon to smithereens.
But can I do that with Absol on the bench? Nooooooo… because of Absol’s stupid ability Dark Ambition, which increases the retreat cost of the opposing player’s active BASIC Pokemon by one *. To quote Donald from Dark Integral Gaming, “You jerk! Punk!”
So if you haven’t noticed by now, I’m NOT a big fan of this card. I LOVE Jirachi, and next to Alolan Muk (and if you think this is strong language for Absol, wait until you hear what I have to say about Power of Alchemy), Absol is about my least favorite card in the format right now. If I promote Jirachi with an Absol on the bench, I have to use a Switch or Escape Rope or attach an energy to get it out of there. NOT COOL, Absol, NOT COOL. This significantly disrupts my strategy and nullifies a huge advantage that I have over a non Jirachi deck. That makes eight cards in my deck practically worthless, because I’m running four Jirachi and four Escape Boards.
Absol is definitely a very effective card, and not just against Jirachi. Any free retreat Basic Pokemon – like Promo Tapu Koko or yesteday’s review, Emolga – now has a single energy retreat cost, which is not insignificant for certain decks that only recharge energy to benched Pokemon (guess which one? I’ll give you a clue, it starts with the letter M and rhymes with Malamar). Dark Ambition even synergizes with Absol’s attack Shadow Seeker, which does thirty base damage plus thirty more for each energy in your opponent’s active Pokemon’s retreat cost. This means that Shadow Seeker does 180 damage to a four retreat cost Basic Pokemon which isn’t terrible.
Unfortunately, Absol is a good card that we’ll probably see as a counter Jirachi option besides Alolan Muk. It might also see some play in spread decks, too, which I’m also having a lot of success with this month. Needless to say, if I start seeing much more Absol, I’m going to have to dump the Jirachi and just go with Dragonite or Magcargo instead.
Standard: 3 out of 5 (although I want to give it something FAR less than three)
Retreat Cost remains one of those stats on a Pokemon card that is only useful in particular situations, whether that’s by the manual retreating procedure or by the effects of Pokemon that rarely see competitive play because of this. However, sometimes there are some odd moments where some such card comes up for one reason or another, and today we take a look at just such a card.
Absol is a Basic Darkness Pokemon, 100 HP, with a Fighting Weakness, a Psychic Resistance, and a Retreat Cost of 1. Dark Ambition pushes up the Retreat Cost of your opponent’s Active Pokemon by 1 as long as it’s a Basic Pokemon, and Shadow Seeker is a 3-for-30 that does 30 more damage for every 1 Energy in their Active Pokemon’s Retreat Cost. Pretty simple right? But then why did Absol see so much play?
In fact, why is Absol seeing so much play? Under normal circumstances, Absol would remain a niche pick, an option that’s only viable against Pokemon with high Retreat Costs. Of course such Pokemon don’t normally see competitive play, and when we take a look at the Pokemon that are topping the charts, a lot of them only have 2 Energy or less in their Retreat Costs. However, there are 2 things to consider with this: the Evolution Stage of these Pokemon being run, and the Pokemon’s HP.
Zapdos ended up as a big contender in the recent International Championships over in Melbourne, usually showing up as Zapdos/Jirachi. You might recall Zapdos barely scraped its way into the Top 11 List, but it’s clearly shown a lot of promise since then. Course when you factor in the 2 Retreat Cost, Absol would be dealing 90 damage to it – which compared to the HP score of 110, is not that far off from just outright OHKOing Zapdos. And since Zapdos is a Basic Pokemon, it would cost 3 Energy to retreat manually – something that Zapdos wants to do often to trigger Thunderous Assault as often as possible. Under ideal circumstances though, this won’t affect Zapdos as much, but it could affect Jirachi, his partner who needs to have the free Retreat Cost to be able to flex around Zapdos easily with Escape Board.
And that’s just one interaction Absol ends up proving very useful in. Basically, as long as Basic Pokemon with low Retreat Costs are around, Absol’s Dark Ambition will help prove useful to throwing a kink into their plans, and as long as they have a lower amount of HP – unlike, say, Pokemon-EX/GX – Shadow Seeker can hit them for a large portion of their HP pool, if not even to just wipe them out entirely with enough boosts.
In this particular environment, Absol manages to thrive.
Standard: 3/5 (normally, Absol wouldn’t be that good)
Expanded: 2/5 (but with the perfect storm of elements, Absol ends up carving its own niche into the metagame)
Limited: 4/5 (expect it to be useful in many ways)
Arora Notealus: It’s moments like these that remind me that looking at the competitive scene can provide us with some amazing uses for certain Pokemon. Paying attention to what’s becoming popular, what the trends are, what decks are worth countering over others, it makes for interesting deckbuilding choices that ultimately shape how decks get played in the overall long run, and Absol is another great option for those deckbuilding moments for times just like this.
Next Time: Somewhere in the midst of a far-off maze…
Time to vivisect Absol (SM – Team Up 88/181). This is not a runner-up from our recent countdown but has been showing up in a few high-performing decklists. Why? The easily underestimated Ability, that’s why. “Dark Ambition” increases the Retreat Cost of your opponent’s Active Pokémon by [C] IF that Pokémon is a Basic. I believe multiple instances of this Ability stack, but if I am mistaken, its usefulness only marginally decreases. That is because players are using it to sabotage Jirachi (SM – Team Up 99/181, SM – Black Star Promos SM161) usage. Jirachi already has a Retreat Cost of [C] but uses Escape Board to retreat for free while it is Asleep because we’re running Jirachi for its own “Stellar Wish” Ability. Between promoting Jirachi after something is KO’d, after using Guzma, etc. a lot of decks are spamming Stellar Wish right now… and Absol trips them up without messing with your own Pokémon, the way another counter like Alolan Muk or Lysandre Labs might. The +1 to Retreat Costs provided by Dark Ambition cancels out the -1 from Escape Board, forcing your opponent to discard an Energy to manually retreat Jirachi, or use up a switching effect… assuming either are available. Sometimes, your opponent can still Stellar Wish into Guzma and have it not matter, but a certain thing (Jirachi already having Escape Board) now becomes a gamble.
As for the rest of Absol, being a Basic Pokémon is vital because it makes Absol easy to run and field. The [D] Typing might come in handy for the future, but right now it doesn’t seem to matter. 100 HP is too much for Level Ball or Professor Elm’s Lecture to search out but only barely out of easy OHKO range once most decks get going; slightly better against [P] attackers due to Resistance, notably worse against [F] attackers due to Weakness. Absol’s own Retreat Cost is just [C]; barring similar shenanigans from your opponent, or severe lack of resources, it shouldn’t be too hard to get it to your own Bench when needed. “Shadow Seeker” costs [DCC], so most decks aren’t going to be able to use it, or use it easily enough to make it worthwhile. The attack only does 30 damage before its effect, which adds 30 extra damage per [C] in your opponent’s Active’s Retreat Cost. Dark Ambition can help with this if you’re attacking a Basic Pokémon. Not useless, but not especially useful, either. If you insist, you can build a deck around it but you’ll need a different attacker to handle most Evolutions or other support to inflate their Retreat Costs… and I’m not sure if that exists outside of the Expanded Format at the moment and I still wouldn’t recommend trying it there because of Float Stone. Float Stone zeroes out retreat costs, so no matter how much you add, a Pokémon with Float Stone still has a Retreat Cost of zero. Even in Standard, you’ll sometimes have to deal with the “Thunderclap Zone” Ability of Zeraora-GX.
For the Standard Format, Dark Ambition earns Absol the title of “TecH”; use it to punish some of the more popular decks right now, and even some irritating rogues. For Expanded, while there’s more you can do with Absol, there are so many more counters to it, it probably isn’t even worth it whether as a single or as a maxed-out deck focus. Unless you pulled something worth running in a +39 build, Absol is a great pull in its own right and something you SHOULD run.
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