Bill – HeartGold & SoulSilver
Date Reviewed: March 11, 2021
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Bill has an interesting history, debuting way back in Base Set, to having its last print in HGSS. When he debuted, he was a trainer card that can be played as many times as you want (the equivalent of Yugioh’s Pot of Greed, except that this card’s still forbidden…and for good reason) without drawbacks until HGSS where his recent print classified him as a Supporter card, thus making him be played only once per turn while giving up your opportunity to use other Supporter on that turn.
Back in its glory days that pre-dated Supporter cards, both Bill and Professor Oak were an absolute staple that they were being run at a full four. Though it wouldn’t be long until rotation became a thing, and the very first Modified format in 2001-2002 was Team Rocket-on, therefore making Bill & Professor Oak not legal to use in tournaments anymore. As such, Bill was never seen again until 2010. There were various other cards during Bill’s absence with “Bill” on its name that were Supporters (such as Bill’s Analysis, Bill’s Maintenance, and Bill’s Teleporter) and they are arguably far better than today’s Throwback.
At this point, there’s absolutely no reason to use him in competitive play in the Legacy format due to Cheren and his other “draw 3” Supporters outclass him. Even if he was Standard/Expanded legal now, he will still be obsolete by a lot of Supporters, not only the draw-3 Supporters, but also ones who draw-2 plus an additional effect. Goes to show how much power creep has done to this card, sadly.
- Standard: N/A
- Expanded: N/A
- Legacy: 1/5
Theme: 2/5 (Appears in HGSS Theme Decks of Growth Clash, Mind Flood, and Steel Sentinel. While this would’ve been a decent draw supporter in this format, the rest of the contents of those theme decks are extremely underwhelming.)
*Before it became a Supporter card, he would have been a five-out-of-five in Unlimited, but I opt not to put that score since we’re reviewing him as if he was a Supporter and not a regular trainer/item card. Maybe if the designers were to hypothetically make “Bill’s Teleportation System” to draw 2 card, it would instantly see play if they did.
Today’s Throwback takes us way back, to the earliest days of the game as we look at Bill (Base Set 91/102; Base Set 2 118/130; Legendary Collection 108/110; HeartGold & SoulSilver 89/123)! All the way back in 1999, Bill released as a Trainer that let you draw two cards. What kind of Trainer? The only kind back then, which means it functioned the way Item cards do today. Bill was widely considered a true staple, with competitive lists sporting four of them. Using it meant you netted yourself a single card of advantage, and with luck, you might hit a run of multiple Bills to gain even more. Why wouldn’t you run four Bill?
Deck space and competition. I was – and for the most part, still am – in the minority that did not see Bill as a true, four-in-every deck staple. It may seem petty at first, but Bill still took up space in your deck. Yes, it meant two more cards in your hand, but it meant one fewer slot in your 60 card deck. While not a major concern, it also meant you were edging yourself closer to decking out; we wouldn’t get the first worthwhile deck replenishing Trainer card until the Team Rocket Expansion, four sets and 15 months after the release of Bill. If this still doesn’t sound like a good enough reason to run fewer than four Bill, including perhaps running none at all, remember the other powerful Trainers that released alongside Bill in Base Set:
- Computer Search
- Energy Removal
- Gust of Wind
- Item Finder
- Professor Oak
- Scoop Up
- Super Energy Removal
…and these are just the general usage options!
Of particular note are Computer Search, Item Finder, and Professor Oak. Computer Search requires you discard two cards from hand to play it, but fetches any one card from your deck. Item Finder also has a two-card discard cost, but reclaims any one Trainer card from your discard pile. Professor Oak was the original “Discard your hand, then draw 7 cards.” card. Again, each and every one of these were normal Trainer cards; there were no Ace Specs or Supporters at this time! Still, over the years I have also had to admit the risk I was taking; if your hand ran low early, contained too many vital cards to discard, or even if you just whiffed on both Professor Oak and Computer Search for multiple turns, your setup ground to a halt.
However, even if I was wrong about Bill in the days of Base Set, Jungle, Fossil, Base Set 2, and Team Rocket, Gym Heroes happened. This set contained Erika, and Erika let you draw three cards, while still being a “normal” Trainer. She also let your opponent draw up to three cards, but players not only had an answer to this, but it was already in many decks by this time; Imposter Oak’s Revenge. You had to discard a card from your hand to use IOR, but your opponent was forced to shuffle their hand into their deck, then draw four cards. Thus, unless your opponent’s hand was already below four, you could use Erika consequence free.
Bill would gain new life with its second re-release. The Legendary Collection was the second reprint set, but Wizards of the Coast learned from the unpopular Base Set 2. The Legendary Collection appealed to collectors by introduced Reverse Holographic cards to the Pokémon TCG, and to players by making the re-releases it contained Modified (Standard) legal and by being designed for use in Limited Format play. This release of Bill introduced it to a very slow, ponderous metagame. At least, by Pokémon terms. We still had other draw effects, but nothing this good. Bill would then remain a staple for the next year… when it rotated from Standard Format play. Only a year? That was when Nintendo took over the TCG from Wizards of the Coast. The game was headed in a different direction, and we were frankly lucky that the final three sets released under Wizards of the Coast (the e-card series) remained Standard-legal.
Fast forward to February 10, 2010. This is when we received the fourth and – for now – final release of Bill. He still draws two cards, but Bill is now a Supporter! This seriously nerfed Bill. The rules for reprints and the legality of previous printings was a bit different at this time; even if there were significant text differences, back then you could still use older versions of the card but you would treat older copies as if they read the exact same as the latest. In other words, whether it was Standard or Unlimited, from this point on, Bill was a Supporter that drew two cards, even if you dug out your old copies from Base Set. The current rules for reprints are a bit more strict; barring errata, you cannot use older copies of cards that differ significantly from their most recent release.
Was there any use during the HeartGold & SoulSilver-era for a Supporter that only drew two cards? This was the time when I was just returning to the TCG after a hiatus, but I don’t recall Bill being significant to Standard Format play. It could be useful when easing a new player into the game, as it gave them a super simple Supporter that lacked any cost, decision making, or variables. It doesn’t make too much sense, though. Mom’s Kindness is also a draw-two Supporter, and released nearly two years earlier. A set after Mom’s Kindness, we got Buck, which is lets you draw two cards and do an extra 10 damage. Even just one set after Bill re-released, we received Emcee’s Chatter, which has you flip a coin with heads drawing two three cards but tails still drawing two.
I won’t be scoring it, but Bill has no business being used in Unlimited Format play. Though Erika also was nerfed by being re-released as a Supporter, both cards just aren’t worth using. If things have not slowed down, you just have to get by on other old-school “normal Trainers” like Professor Oak, or maybe non-attack Pokémon effects. Even if you need to use Supporters, that brings us to why Bill isn’t any good in the Legacy Format; we have better Supporters. Yes, Bill is still legal in the PTCGO Legacy Format, but so is Cheren, first of the “Draw 3 cards.” Well, the first with that exact effect, and no other conditions, restrictions, etc. Emcee’s Chatter is also legal, but both are badly outclassed by N, Professor Juniper, and Professor Oak’s Research.
Bill is also legal in the PTCGO’s Theme Format, but all the Theme Decks containing it are old and obsolete. Nor is Bill all that good even there. What if Bill were reprinted again? If they leave it as is, it would be there for nostalgia, not for actual play. Even if they “updated” Bill to draw three cards like Cheren, Tierno, Hau, and Hop. There might be a small hope for a Bill reprint, it still being just “Draw 2 cards.”, and still being a Supporter. As I mentioned earlier, there are other Bill-inspired cards. Currently, Bill’s Analysis is Standard-legal, and Bill’s Maintenance is Expanded-legal. If there were some useful, supporting effects for cards with “Bill” in their name, that might do it.
- Standard: N/A
- Expanded: N/A
- Legacy: 1.00
- Theme: 2.00
Bill is an important part of the Pokémon TCG’s history, but being turned into a Supporter turned him from champ to chump. Still, we hadn’t reviewed him in quite a while, so I thought he was a worthwhile Throwback pick, given the TCG’s history with this card.
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