– Unbroken Bonds
April 3, 2020
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Note: My review for yesterday was posted, albeit it late, yesterday. Feel free to check it out if you visited the site before that happened.
A for today’s subject, Blastoise-GX (SM – Unbroken Bonds 35/214, 218/214; SM – Black Star Promos SM189) is… a Pokémon-GX! Yeah, that’s nice an obvious just reading the name, let alone looking at the card, but what does that mean? It should have better stats and effects (relative to their costs) than the baseline version of Blastoise, and can make use of some GX-based support. That all comes at the price of giving up an extra Prize when KO’d, being excluded from certain beneficial effects, and being subject to certain deleterious effects based solely on its status as a Pokémon-GX.
[W] Typing should be better than it is. Not only are there some fine pieces of [W] Pokémon and/or Energy support, not only do they have some good looking attackers, but we’re in a metagame where [R] decks are reasonably prominent, and were even stronger not that long ago. Yet [W] is not a big part of the metagame itself… and it doesn’t seem to be from [W] Type counters, either. What is easy to understand is that being a Stage 2 makes Blastoise-GX slow and resource intensive, at least relative to Basic and Stage 1 Pokémon. Shortcuts are available to it, such as Archie’s Ace in the Hole (in Expanded).
Blastoise-GX has 240 HP, which good; remember, it is a Stage 2 worth two Prizes so being likely to survive a hit more often than not is merely “good”. [G] Weakness could be a problem in Standard and is a problem in Expanded. Lack of Resistance is typical, though technically the worst. A Retreat cost of [CCC] may be the worst as well. While [CCCC] is higher, it isn’t that much worse to pay and comes with access to cards like Buff Padding. Anything over [CC] is going to dictate how you build your deck… at least, normally it is.
Blastoise-GX has the Ability “Solid Shell”, the attack “Rocket Splash” for [WW], and the GX-attack “Giant Geyser-GX” for [W]. Solid Shell reduces the damage Blastoise-GX takes from attacks by 30, after applying Weakness and Resistance. Rocket Splash lets you shuffle any amount of [W] Energy from your Pokémon to your deck, doing 60 damage for each card shuffled back. Giant Geyser-GX lets you attach as many [W] Energy as you want from your hand to your Pokémon, however you’d like… until your turn ends.
Solid Shell is a good Ability; [G] Types need to do 140 damage (instead of 120) to score a OHKO, while everything else needs to do 270 (instead of 240). 2HKO’s require mean damage of 75 from [G] Types, while everything else has to average 150 per shot! This basically lets Blastoise-GX fake having the durability of a TAG TEAM or VMAX Pokémon, while still only being worth two Prizes when KO’d (instead of three). Just remember that Power Plant – among other things – can take it away.
Rocket Splash pretty much needs Energy acceleration, and when you factor in the Energy being returned, it doesn’t even have a good damage-to-Energy ratio. Still, it does help that it lets you scale the damage you need; shuffle away just one [W] Energy if you need to swat something with 60 HP (or less), two for 70 to 120, three for 130 to 180, etc. Taking out a Snorlax VMAX sporting Buff Padding (390 HP) means shuffling seven [W] Energy back into your deck… which sounds difficult but doable.
Giant Geyser-GX is merely okay; a good option to have, but not something to plan around using. Yes, Energy accelerating GX-attacks have been successful in the past, but I don’t recall them being as good recently. None were open ended, either; Giant Geyser-GX’s only limit is how many [W] Energy you can actually have in your hand. That’s actually the attack’s biggest strength, but getting Energy into your hand is only easy to a point. Once you get past what a good combination of draw, search, and recycling cards can provide, it doesn’t mean much. Also, Giant Geyser-GX is checking the Energy’s Type while it is in your hand, so it does need to be basic Water Energy.
Giant Geyser-GX combos into Rocket Splash reasonably well, and Solid Shell means the same copy of Blastoise-GX has a decent, maybe even a good, chance of sticking around to do the deed. However, unless your attack an insane amount of Energy with the GX-attack, you’re probably only getting one good Rocket Splash from the deal, maybe two. Then you’ve got a so-so wall. If you do have an adequate form of additional Energy acceleration, though, it opens up combos with cards like Max Potion or bounce effects. Simply shuffle all Energy attached to Blastoise-GX back into your deck, and if your opponent can’t score the OHKO, heal it all away and reload!
What about the rest of the evolutionary line? We actually have two and a half noteworthy Squirtle to mention. All are Basic [W] Types with [G] Weakness, no Resistance, Retreat Cost [C] and filler attacks. BW – Boundaries Crossed 29/149 is Expanded-only, but its “Shell Shield” Ability protects it from damage by attacks while it is on your Bench. SM – Team Up 22/181 has the Ability “Floating Shell”; so long as you (not your opponent) have a Stadium in play, this Squirtle has no Retreat Cost. The “half” comes from SM – Team Up 23/181; it has 70 HP, the highest for Squirtle. If you’re not utilizing Professor Elm’s Lecture and aren’t better served by the Ability versions, go with it.
We don’t have a good version of Wartortle. SM – Unbroken Bonds 34/214 looks like it might be, as it has a version of Solid Shell that soaks 20 damage… but its HP is 70. That means it is no more durable than the other Standard-legal Wartortle, SM – Team Up 24/181. Their stats are the same and their attacks are both filler. Of course, you could use Rare Candy instead of either of them… and you can skip Squirtle and Wartortle (or Rare Candy) in Expanded, playing Blastoise-GX directly to the field (from the discard pile) with Archie’s Ace in the Hole.
We should also look at other options for ending the evolution line. Blastoise (BW – Boundaries Crossed 31/149; BW – Plasma Storm 137/135; BW – Plasma Blast 16/101) was once famous for its “Deluge” Ability, which lets you attach as many [W] Energy from your hand to your Pokémon as you want during your turn, before you attack. It is only legal in Expanded; if you can’t reliably work around Frosmoth’s “Ice Dance” Ability only attaching to your Benched [W] Pokémon, this makes sense.
Blastoise (SM – Team Up 25/181) has the Ability “Powerful Squall”, which lets you look at the top six cards from your deck, then attach as many [W] Energy as you find there to your Pokémon. Anything you don’t attach is shuffled back into your deck. You are also free to attach the Energy as you like; it can go to just one Pokémon or multiple. It is a once-per-turn Ability used before you attack, though if you have multiple instances of it in play, each can be used. I don’t recall this Blastoise ever having proven itself, and its still Standard-legal.
How has Blastoise-GX done in competitive play? If you’ve read most of the other reviews this week, the answer shouldn’t be a surprise: Mewtwo & Mew-GX decks. You don’t ever put Blastoise-GX into play, you just discard it and copy its attacks using Mewtwo & Mew-GX’s “Perfection” Ability. So Solid Shell isn’t actually relevant. As the list in question, which took 1st-place at the Regional Championship held in Perth, Australia, runs zero basic Water Energy, Giant Geyser-GX isn’t why Blastoise-GX is being run, either. 10 of the deck’s 12 Energy provide [W] while attached to your Pokémon. Rocket Splash has the potential to be a hard-hitting, final attack…
…or you just use it to deliver a decent hit while shuffling all Energy attached to Pokémon you’re worried will be KO’d before your next turn back into your deck. Most likely, this is the Energy attached to Mewtwo & Mew-GX itself. I’ve no examples of Blastoise-GX being used successfully in Expanded, but in theory it could be used the same way. Mewtwo & Mew-GX decks were competitive in Expanded not that long ago, and here they could combo with Acerola, Ace, Max Potion, Super Scoop Up, etc. should Mewtwo-GX survive into your next turn after all.
In the Limited Format, you’ll have to pull the entire line and run a deck built around Blastoise-GX, but almost everything about this Pokémon is better. Its Ability means it will nearly be unassailable. You’ll probably lack external combos for Rocket Splash and Giant Geyser-GX, but they still have each other. Having the basic Water Energy in hand when you Giant Geyser is the main concern; typical HP scores are lower and you only need to take four Prizes here, so attaching three or four Energy might be enough. Hopefully, your manual Energy attachments for the turn can supply the rest. Just remember that this is a Stage 2, so you’ll have to go through the rest of the line… and this is not meant to be a Mulligan deck.
It kind of hurts to award Blastoise-GX just two-out-five for both Constructed Formats but its only got its role as Perfection-fodder in one Mewtwo & Mew-GX variant to its credit. Yes, that deck one a tournament, but Perth only had 59 Masters. While it looks like we ought to have a Blastoise-GX deck floating around at least the edges of competitive play, to my knowledge we don’t. So I can’t quite bring myself to award it a three-out-five.
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