– Darkness Ablaze
September 6, 2020
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
I love the idea behind the mismatched “Fossil” Pokémon of Gen 8, but the execution makes me cringe. Totally a personal thing, though: I suspect the usual spread of people liking, disliking, or just not caring about this Pokémon. Getting to the actual card, Arctozolt (SW – Darkness Ablaze 066/189; SW – Black Star Promos SWSH036) is a [L] type, which is good but not great. Looking ahead, you’re probably not using this as an attacker, so type-matching is irrelevant. In terms of type support, rotation cost Lightning some of its best tricks in Standard, but not all of them, so I’d say that the typing is “Good but not great.”
Being a Stage 1 is a bit more complicated than usual, because Arctozolt is what we often refer to as a “Fossil” Pokémon. How this VG mechanic has been adapted over the decades has changed more than once. I was hoping that it would eventually align with how they handle Ultra Beasts: a label on the card, maybe some common themes in the effects. Instead, they’ve “updated” the original mechanic, so Arctozolt evolves from Rare Fossil, an Item you can put into play as a Trainer, and which I probably need us to review just so there’s a place where I can explain it without derailing the entire review. For now, just think of this as a Stage 1 where it can sometimes be hard to search out or recycle the Basic, and where Item lock laughs at you.
Arctozolt has 130 HP, which is a little more likely to be OHKO’d than not. [F] Weakness is relatively safe at the moment, though I don’t know how long that will last. No Resistance is technically the worst, but even at -30, Resistance rarely matters. A Retreat Cost of [CC] is typical, as well as being low enough you can often pay it but high enough you sometimes can’t, or can but will regret it. If Arctozolt ends up being a Bench-sitter, these are decent stats, but if it has to be up front, it’d be a glass canon, expendable meatshield, or surprise blocker due to its effects. So, what role do those effects suggest?
“Biting Whirlpool” is an Abilty that works regardless of whether Arctozolt is Active or Benched, so that’s a good sign. Biting Whirlpool’s text states that, whenever your opponent attaches an Energy card from their hand to one of their Pokémon, you place two damage counters on that Pokémon. Okay, “Bench-sitter” it is! We don’t have to sweat whether cards like Twin Energy or Triple Acceleration Energy count as multiple Energy in the hand or only after attaching (pretty sure it is the latter), because Biting Whirlpool says “Energy card” and not just “Energy”. The wording is also such that multiple instances of Biting Whirlpool should be able to trigger at the same time, with each placing two damage counters on the offending Pokémon. In other words, it “stacks”. Arctozolt’s attack is a simple affair: [LC] pays for “Electro Ball” to do 70 damage. This is vanilla filler, but at least it is not truly awful; clearly underpowered, but you might actually use it on rare occasions, probably due to desperation.
So, why wouldn’t most decks be running this card? It fakes being a damage buff, right? While it should be devastating to a Frosmoth deck, which might matter soon, this is not a new effect and the only time I recall it really making good was when it was on a Stadium card: Frozen City. While Frozen City could easily be discarded by another Stadium, it was easy to run whether as TecH, maxed out, or anything in between and just as easy to field. Arctozolt means going through Rare Fossil, and Items aren’t as easy to work with as actual Basic Pokémon. Swarming the field with them – so you can mass evolve into multiple Arctozolts the next turn – ain’t easy…
…and to improve your odds of Biting Whirlpool actually mattering, you need to either swarm Arctozolt or already be running a control deck, or at least its weaker cousin, disruption. Limit your opponent’s options, probably be discarding the Energy they already have in play, and in doing so, force them to attach where it (ideally) helps you out. Even if they attach to the Pokémon you want to KO next, however, Biting Whirlpool may not matter. Remember, extra damage only really “counts” when it triggers a specific effect or decreases how many turns it takes for you to score the KO. If you attach Energy from some place other than the hand, Biting Whirlpool doesn’t even trigger, and many decks either run single-attachment attackers or Energy acceleration that can get around this Ability.
Still, Artcozolt has potential. It might be nice as a Bench-sitter in a Vikavolt V deck, helping to offset the low damage output of Vikavolt V’s Item-locking first attack. Throw in some Energy removal that also helps with the general strategy, and Biting Whirlpool becomes the icing on the cake. I’m less impressed in Expanded, where there are other ways of upping damage, more ways of shutting down Abilities, and more single-attachment attackers that likely won’t really notice Biting Whirlpool. In the Limited Format, though, unless you pull a big, Basic Pokémon V worth running in a Mulligan Build, try to work in Arctozolt (and Rare Fossil) as Bench-sitters. Odds are better that even one Biting Whirlpool will make a big difference.
Arctozolt has an Ability that looks good, but hasn’t panned out in the past. Still, there’s a little something here so it should be worth remembering, if not experimenting with right away. It would have been our 23rd-place finisher… and by this point, I don’t know if that means it was underrated or overrated. I do know that it didn’t make my Top 15 for SW – Darkness Ablaze, but it did make at least one of the other reviewer’s lists. Also that I can at least understand its inclusion.
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