– Darkness Ablaze
September 21, 2020
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
We have another fully evolved starter Pokémon to review, and this time, it’s Blaziken from Sword & Shield Darkness Ablaze. Today’s card also brings in past recycled effects, and although they are pretty good on paper, I’m afraid that this kind of tactics isn’t going to cut it in competitive play because it is a Stage 2 Pokemon. So if Stage 2s are gonna be playable, then it has to provide some sort of support, and Blaziken doesn’t support anything but itself…well not completely, but still.
Starting off is it’s Double Type ability, and it has been previously seen on Golurk AOR and Gallade CEC, so you might have a clue what it does. It makes Blaziken not only be a Fire Type, but also a Fighting Type! That enables Blaziken to exploit weakness found on certain Pokémon, like how Fire weakness is found on most Grass and Metal types and how Fighting weakness is found on some Colorless Type, most Lightning type, and some Darkness type Pokemon. At the same time, while there are no Pokémon that resist Fire types (except for much, much older cards like Bronzor from the Diamond & Pearl series or the even older -ex series), there are Pokemon with Fighting Resistance, and they’ll take 30 less damage from Blaziken. If there was a situation where the Pokémon is both weak to a certain type and resist a certain type, like Gallade’s CEC Psychic and Fighting typing, then you would apply the weakness first and then apply resistance second.
In addition to exploiting type weaknesses, it also gets type specific support while in play. Cards from Standard & Expanded include Burning Energy, Heat R Energy, Strong Energy, Focus Sash, Diancie Prism Star, and much more! At the same time, though, Blaziken is not always a Fire and a Fighting Type because that aspect comes from an ability. Blaziken is technically a Fire type outside of play, so some of the type specific search cards won’t work on Blaziken…at least for the Fighting Type. Korrina FFI cannot search for Blaziken, but Ultra Ball can because it is not that specific. Also, if abilities are offline, Blaziken will lose the Fighting typing while losing some Fighting specific support; Strong Energy will discard itself should that happens!
So while Double Type is a useful ability, the only time that matters is if Blaziken has a good attack to back up the ability to exploit weakness and hit them hard. Turbo Drive…is neither good nor bad. The cost is reasonable to pay, as it takes Welder and your manual attachment to go from zero into attacking. 130 damage is below average as it fails to 2HKO some TAG TEAMs and Pokemon VMAX if you’re relying on base damage alone. Even Vitality Band (or Muscle Band) isn’t enough to muscle past those Pokémon. You might be able to reach OHKO levels in Expanded by adding Strong Energy, Diancie (*), and Muscle Band, but some of that investment can be eventually removed by your opponent. The extra effect isn’t too bad either, as it can help you prep another attacker in case Blaziken goes down, and despite its 170 HP, some Pokémon can still OHKO Blaziken in this range.
It is possible that a deck can be made featuring Blaziken as the main attacker, but even then, it goes a long way to being playable enough to show up in tournaments. Blaziken is, at best, considered to be a rogue deck that might pick up a couple wins here or there due to favorable matchups and Welder doing both energy acceleration and draw power. Ultimately, though, Stage 2s is still underrepresented in the TCG due to the inescapable flaws that they have for the entirely of the game.
I think Blaziken is one of the few single prize Stage 2s that could compete because the support is there. I may not have the opportunity to review Gallade last year, but most likely what I’ve said about Blaziken pretty much applies to Gallade CEC as well, though Blaziken has a slightly better built-in type combination than Gallade.
Blaziken (SW – Darkness Ablaze 024/189) kicks off our Monday. This is one of those Pokémon where its Ability will influence how almost everything about it performs, so let’s start with that. “Double Type” is aptly named, as its effect simply causes Blaziken to count as both a Fire type and a Fighting type, at the same time. Blaziken is a dual-type Pokémon in the video games, and this Ability lets it fake being one in the TCG. If the Player’s Cup Finals Top 16 is any indication of the metagame for a while, then Blaziken is hitting what may be the two most important forms of Weakness thanks to this typing: [R] to punish Zacian V decks, and [F] to smack Eternatus VMAX decks silly. It is a single Prize Pokémon, which can be easy to overlook given how most decks are built around Pokémon worth two or even three Prizes when KO’d.
Blaziken is a Stage 2, and that is the first bad thing we’ve encountered. It shouldn’t be, but Stage 2 Pokémon are slower than Basics and Stage 1 Pokémon, as well as demanding more resources to hit the field. While not the printed max for Stage 2 Pokémon, 170 HP is up there; as big as a small Basic Pokémon V, this is still enough that Blaziken is more likely to survive a hit than be OHKO’d, but far from enough you can rely on it. [W] Weakness isn’t good, at least if Frosmoth decks are finally on the rise. No Weakness is the worst but also typical, and a Retreat Cost of [CC] is typical but not the worst; low enough you can pay it most of the time, but high enough you’ll rarely want to.
I said we’re focused on exploiting Weakness, so Blaziken’s attack is actually one of its most important features. I’d have covered it sooner, but I wanted to leave myself enough room to go into some detail. “Turbo Drive” costs [RCC], enough that a few different forms of Energy acceleration can easily prep it in two turns, and a manual Energy attachment plus Welder for two Fire takes it from zero to Turbo Drive in a single turn. 130 damage is about right for three Energy, and enough to fairly reliable 2HKO Basic Pokémon V, and OHKO a little over the lower third of HP scores. Turbo Drive also has you attach a basic Energy card from your discard pile to one of your Benched Pokémon, so your current Blaziken can prepare your next attacker.
If we put it all together, we might have a Stage 2 worth streaming. Your first Blaziken needs two turns of manual building, assuming one of those turns if you attaching a source of [R] Energy and the other is attaching Twing Energy or Triple Acceleration Energy (preferably the former). Assuming you even have a [R] Energy in the discard for Turbo Drive to attach to something on your Bench, this lets you prep the Torchic or Comusken you’ll be evolving into your next Blaziken; a Twin Energy next turn and it’ll be ready to swing. Which means you won’t always have to burn your Supporter for the turn on Welder. You’ll still need to keep Benching those Torchic, and evolving them if they survive. Maybe directly into Blaziken via Rare Candy, maybe into Combusken, because you might be able to leverage Blaziken’s HP in some matches. Add a big charm and Blaziken reaches 200 HP. I wouldn’t want to run too many Special Energy cards, but you might be able to mix in some Heat [R] Energy for added HP. Blaziken doesn’t need to massive, it just needs to be resilient enough that you can still trade Prizes favorable with multi-Prize Pokémon.
While Turbo Drive is nice, it does not hit hard enough to score OHKO’s even through Weakness against Eternatus VMAX. Nor are there enough offensive buffs to make such an approach worthwhile. Fortunately, it still enjoys an easy 2HKO. The same for Zacian V (or other Metal types) fully kitted out. Zacian V lost Metal Frying Pan, but even without eliminating its [R] Weakness, 220 HP bolstered by Lucario & Melmetal-GX’s GX-attack and Metal Goggles acts like 280 HP… which would mean Blaziken needs to do 140 damage before Weakness. Bronzong (SM – Team Up 101/181) can still wall via its Ability as well. Blaziken has some chance of dealing with Zamazenta V stalling, however; Blaziken doesn’t get the OHKO, but it can try for a 2HKO.
I think Blaziken has a small chance in Standard, but probably not in Expanded. It seems like a great pull for the Limited Format, so long as you get the rest of the line, too. Given the score, it probably doesn’t seem like I think this Blaziken has much of a chance, but it is just so close; keep an eye on it.
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