Bonsly – Diamond and Pearl
Date Reviewed: May 6, 2021 Ratings Summary: See Below
Our throwback for this week goes to Bonsly (Diamond & Pearl 71/130)! Something to point out is that this is the one and only Bonsly card in the entire Pokémon TCG! Well, not including unreleased Bonsly cards such as the one from Japanese’s Movie Commemoration VS Pack which kind of resembles the movie Lucario and the mystery of Mew. So internationally speaking, today’s Bonsly is the only English Bonsly card in the TCG, and fortunately it is the best one, competitive wise!
Like the other baby Pokémon, Bonsly has the Baby Evolution Poké-Power, which lets you put Sudowoodo onto Bonsly, and removes all damage counters from that Pokémon. Fake Tears is a free attack (no energy is needed) that lets you flip a coin, and, if heads, your opponent can’t play any trainer cards during their next turn AND Bonsly takes 30 less damage from attacks! Even with Grass Weakness making Bonsly take +10 more damage (instead of X2), it still takes 20 less damage from Grass Pokemon. And with its own 40 HP, it can rank anything with 60 damage or below.
Now, Trainer cards have been categorized drastically different during the DP series and the HGSS series, where Trainer-Trainer are considered Trainer-Item, Supporter-Supporter are considered Trainer-Supporter, and Stadium-Stadium are considered Trainer-Stadium. The categorization during the ex-series is near identical to BW-series onwards. So if someone tries to tell you that Bonsly locks down ALL Trainer cards, it should only locks down item cards. Again, I’m not sure if it always works that way, but always have your rulebook from various formats’ past just in case in the unlikely event that someone tries to combine old and new cards (looking at you, Vileplume from HS Undaunted). I know I still have some DP/HGSS cards in my collection, and I may casually use them. Anyhow, despite the coin flip, this is still a free attack and is a potent effect that can turn the tide for one turn.
But if you wanted to evolve it, there are a couple Sudowoodo cards that were legal at the time:
-Sudowoodo from EX Unseen Forces (I think it’s legal for a few months? Not sure).
-Sudowoodo from DP Mysterious Treasures
-Sudowoodo from DP Majestic Dawn
-Sudowoodo from HS Unleashed (though Bonsly was about to leave rotation in a few months when it changed from DP-on to DP Majestic Dawn-on)
None of the Sudowoodo cards at the time were competitive, but I guess the closest thing you can use is from the DP Mysterious Treasures version. It’s first attack cost one energy for 20 damage, and if Bonsly is underneath Sudowoodo, you may flip a coin. If heads, it takes no damage and prevents all effects affecting Sudowoodo. Ultimately, I don’t think Sudowoodo can differentiate from Bonsly as its Fake Tears attack is too good to pass up.
No ratings since Bonsly isn’t Standard or Expanded legal, though hypothetically if it were legal with the same effects, it would definitely see some play. It gives up a single prize, unlike Vikavolt, and the coin flip can be improved with Glimwood Tangle, giving you a 75% chance to lock down item cards and tank some damage. Fighting Fury Belt or Eviolite/Stone F Energy might help buffer its low HP. Wishful thinking though…
This card has been reviewed once in June 2007, and the reception seems mixed. Item lock is a game-changing strategy, but the combination of low HP and unreliable coin flips made them feel kinda leery about it.
Bonsly (Diamond & Pearl 71/130) is the only Bonsly card. If you want to be precise, and you know I do, there are two Japanese promo cards for Rota’s Bonsly. Who is Rota? Well, that is the question I had, but it turns out Rota is a where, not a what. It is a region of Kanto only seen in the film Lucario and the Mystery of Mew. So even in Japan, Bonsly hasn’t gotten anything since today’s Bonsly released 14 years ago! A few months after it released, the CotD crew of the time reviewed Bonsly, and you can read that here. I wasn’t among them, so time to make up for that.
Bonsly is a Fighting type, but that didn’t really matter at the time. Being a Basic was important; while this card released during the rare time when they were not automatically the best Stage, it still had its intrinsic benefits. 40 HP wasn’t great back then, but it was slightly less bad. I don’t recall how prominent Grass type attackers were at the time, but its [G]+10 Weakness shouldn’t have made much difference unless there was a specific attack that did 30 damage. Yeah, the Gen IV approach to Weakness was almost well-balanced. With just 40 HP, its lack of Resistance meant almost nothing. Its Retreat Cost of [C] was low and easy to pay.
Bonsly evolves into Sudowoodo in the video games; as Sudowoodo was introduced first and thus showed up as a Basic in the PTCG, Bonsly was released as an unofficial “Baby” Pokémon. Official Baby Pokémon are a subclass of Basics, released during the Neo and e-card series of expansions, under Wizards of the Coast time running the PTCG outside of Japan. During the EX (Gen III) series, DP (early Gen IV), Platinum (mid Gen IV) and HS-series (late Gen IV), we had unofficial Baby Pokémon. The term was never printed anywhere on their cards, but they all shared the same Poké-POWER, “Baby Evolution”. Poké-Powers work similar to Abilities.
Baby Evolution lets you fake evolving these Baby Pokémon into whatever Basic(s) they evolve into in the video games. It even counts as evolving Bonsly, as per the text, and comes bonus of removing all damage counters from it. One of the benefits of this is that the Sudowoodo resulting from this counted as an Evolved Pokémon, granting it access to general Evolution support. At least, the bits that you could access while in play; it didn’t count as Evolved anywhere other than when it was put into play through Bonsly’s Baby Evolution. If you stuck with Bonsly, you could use its “Fake Tears” attack. This attack as a  (free) Energy cost. You have to flip a coin to use it, and tails means the attack does nothing.
“Heads” does quite a bit with Fake Tears. It prevents your opponent from using Item cards from their hand and places an effect on Bonsly, reducing the damage it takes from attacks by 30 until the end of your opponent’s next turn. Weakness and Resistance are applied before the damage reduction. Now, if you are reading the card yourself, you’ll see that it says “Trainer cards” and not Item cards. That is because, during Gen IV, Supporter cards and Stadium cards were re-classified as their own core card types (joining Pokémon, Trainers, and Energy) and “Trainer” cards referred to what was left. In Gen V, this separation was reversed but non-Supporter, non-Stadium Trainer cards were designated “Item” cards. It has been ruled that you interpret effects like this according to the meaning it had at the time e.g. Bonsly can block Item cards…
…which sounds like it would have been handy at the time. The coin flip means it wasn’t especially reliable, but the game was a little more open to such things back then. Unfortunately, I don’t recall how often Bonsly was used back in the day. I didn’t see it in any World Championship decks from the period in which Bonsly was legal, this is from far enough back that it isn’t easy to find reliable deck information, and even if I had clear memories of it (I don’t) this is released near the time I had to step back from the TCG. I can at least touch upon the one combo the previous review addressed: Sudowoodo (EX – Unseen Forces 15/115).
This Sudowoodo is a 60 HP [F] type Basic Pokémon with x2 [W] Weakness, no Resistance, and Retreat Cost [C]. It has two attacks, and both had some potential back in the day except they were too expensive. “Copy” looks cheap, as its printed price is [C], but Copy lets you select an attack from your opponent’s Active and use it as the effects (including damage) of Copy. The catch is you still have to have enough Energy to cover the copied attack’s printed attack cost, and you have to do anything else the attack requires. “Karate Chop” costs [FCC] and does 50 damage, less 10 per damage counter on Sudowoodo. Karate Chop was likely filler, though with some functionality.
Why was Copy special? Maybe it wasn’t, but Sudowoodo suddenly being an Evolved Pokémon meant it could use Boost Energy, Double Rainbow Energy, and/or Scramble Energy to cover its cost. Boost Energy probably didn’t mean much, but those other two allowed some very pricey attacks to be accessed relatively quickly. Apparently not enough to lead to some hard-to-forget deck running the combo, but at least it looks good on paper. Sudowoodo (DP – Mysterious Treasures 35/123) has an attack that gets a bonus effect if it evolved from Bonsly, but the attack isn’t very good so no sense discussing it further.
How about if this card received a reprint? It couldn’t be a true reprint, but something very close to Bonsly could have potential. Be nice if it had a little more HP, and the Weakness would have to be modernized. An Ability resembling Baby Evolution probably is not happening, but Fake Tears might actually be better now, thanks to support like Glimwood Tangle.
- Standard: N/A
- Expanded: N/A
Today we remember Bonsly, our only Bonsly. Hopefully, we’ll one day get another Bonsly.
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