– Team Rocket
October 3, 2019
See Reviews Below for this Throwback Card’s Ratings.
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
This is it! The one that started it all, the series of locks that gives one or even both players a hard time once this is out. It’s Dark Vileplume from Team Rocket! The fame to claim is it’s Hay Fever Pokemon Power, which says that NO Trainer cards can be played. During the time it came out, there’s only one category of trainer cards, and Supporters/Stadium didn’t exist at the time. This slows down most decks, as they rely on trainers to get their deck going. Without it, it all comes down to using Pokémon Powers and manual energy attachments. You can’t play Professor Oak to draw cards; can’t play Energy Removal to deplete energies; can’t play Gust of Win to swap positions (a big problem as long as Dark Vileplume sits comfortably on the Bench with its 60 HP, which was on the low side of being a Stage 2, you have to somehow force a switch via attack); can’t use Computer Search to fetch anything; can’t use ItemFinder to recover trainers; and much much more!
As time goes on and rotation keeps happening, Vileplume isn’t going to be extinguished due to future Vileplume cards doing a similar job. Ranging from EX Hidden Legends to HS Undaunted and XY Ancient Origins, the format will at least have some form of trainer/item lock that will irritate one or both players. However, as Vileplume improved, so does the card pool to counter them. Supporters and Stadiums can be played, and even those categories can force switches, like Lysandre/Guzma to force Vileplume in the Active spot for the sake of KOing them as soon as possible, even at the cost of your Supporter! Even some bench hits can be heavy; an example would be Greninja-GX Shadowy Hunter which can OHKO Vileplume from XY Ancient Origins due to having exactly 130 HP. Long story short, if you’re gonna use Vileplume for item lock, you have to protect it. It’s usage may diminish if it hinders you and your opponent didn’t run that many item cards.
For Unlimited use, I can see Dark Vileplume with Forest of Giant Plants to speed up evolution, and you can even lock both player’s item usage on the first turn of the game! But if that’s the case, you would be better off using Vileplume from XY Ancient Origins due to higher HP.
Limited: 3/5 (You won’t be able to attack or evolve until your third turn due to manually evolving twice and manually attach three times)
Dark Vileplume (Team Rocket 13/82, 30/82) originally released on April 24, 2000. The game was much different back then, and it complicates this review. It means Dark Vileplume was legal for two different Standard Formats, at least if we consider the time before the first set rotation to still be a Standard Format (it was certainly called that). It was also legal for what was then known as the “Rocket On” Modified Format, which is the other Format you could argue is the original Standard Format. I don’t want to dwell on details that aren’t relevant to this review, so I am just making a blanket statement now. Yes, the card pool then was very different from what we have now; it was also different from each other, and the times when Dark Vileplume showed some promise in the Unlimited Format. So were the actual rules of the game.
Dark Vileplume’s name brings us to one of those differences; it is a Dark Pokémon, not to be confused with Darkness or [D] Type Pokémon. Dark Pokémon were always Evolutions, and they Evolved from the same Basic Pokémon as their non-Dark counterparts. That means Dark Vileplume Evolves from Dark Gloom, but Dark Gloom can Evolve from any card named “Oddish”, but not cards that simply have “Oddish” in their name (like Erika’s Oddish). The idea behind Dark Pokémon is that they had been corrupted by their service to Team Rocket… but we would eventually see some Basics with a similar affiliation released, and then a bunch of confusing cards as the powers-that-be tried to make them all work together. There were card effects that rewarded a player for using Dark Pokémon and those that punished a player for running them.
Dark Vileplume is a [G] Type, but due to the time frame we won’t be going into detail about that meant; [G] Type support would come later and early [G] Type counters from this period were almost as rare and usually pointless. Plus, this card was usually a Bench-sitter, so Weakness and Resistance weren’t likely to matter. What did matter is that Dark Vileplume is a Stage 2, so it was slow to hit the field, and by the time it wasn’t – after the release of Broken Time-Space – I wasn’t worried about the Unlimited Format too much. It also meant you needed multiple cards to get one Dark Vileplume to the field.
Dark Vileplume has 60 HP; I believe this is the lowest any Stage 2 Pokémon has ever had, shared by Dark Alakazam (Team Rocket 1/82, 18/82) and Kabutops (Fossil 9/62, 24/62; Legendary Collection 27/110). It was terrible back then, though not a super-reliable OHKO. Dark Vileplume had [R] Weakness if it was Team Rocket 13/82 or [F] Weakness if it was 30/82 due to a printing error and the stubborn refusal of Wizards of the Coast (in control of the game at the time) to issue an errata. [F] Weakness was almost always a bad thing at this time in the game. No Resistance was still typical, though more of a missed opportunity as damage output was lower and Resistance was -30 instead of -20. The Retreat Cost of [CC] hurt because there was a strategy involving retreating Dark Vileplume; if not for that, it would have been tolerable for a Bench-sitter that wasn’t likely to survive being Active.
Dark Vileplume has a Pokémon Power, which is similar to an Ability in function, though card effects that apply to one do not apply to the other. This Pokémon Power was “Hay Fever” and it stopped all players from using Trainer cards from hand (those in play continued to work). Like all Pokémon Powers, save a few that expressly say different, Hay Fever originally stopped working if Dark Vileplume was Asleep, Confused or Paralyzed; later a general game revision meant this was treated as any Special Condition shutting down most Pokémon powers. Decks during the original Standard/Unlimited Format ran heavy on Trainer cards, not unlike some decks now; most were half Trainer, and many were two-thirds. Though what is a “Trainer” has changed over the years, Hay Fever is to be read understanding what it meant back then… and that means what we now think of as Items, Stadiums, and Supporters!
Dark Vileplume also has the attack “Petal Whirlwind” for [GGG], which has you flip three coins, doing 30 damage per “heads” and if you get two or more “heads”, then Dark Vileplume Confuses itself. This was horrible, even back in the day. Dark Vileplume was run for Hay Fever and starred in multiple competitive decks, most taking advantage of Pokémon Powers being shut off when a Pokémon was affected by a Special Condition… and of Dark Gloom (Team Rocket 36/82). Its “Pollen Stench” Pokémon Power let you flip a coin, once during your turn: “heads” mean your opponent’s Active was Confused, “tails” meant your own. Players would spam this not only to make it harder for your opponent to attack but because a Confused Dark Vileplume’s Hay Fever stopped working. Players would then use whatever Trainers they needed to before dropping a Switch or the like to Bench Dark Vileplume (and turn Hay Fever back on).
What about the turns before Dark Vileplume could hit the field? This card released long before (pre-errata) Rare Candy, let alone Broken-Time Space or Forest of Giant Plants; even if you used Pokémon Breeder your opponent was guaranteed at least one turn of Trainers. The answer to that was Psyduck (Fossil 53/62; WotC Black Star Promos 20) and/or Chaos Gym. That Psyduck could use the attack “Headache” for [P]; the attack did no damage but it prevented your opponent from playing Trainer cards from hand. We re-reviewed Chaos Gym about a month ago, and it was likely to cause Headaches… plus there was a 50% chance it would negate the effects of Trainers other than Stadium cards when they were played from hand. Some Dark Vileplume decks focus on a stall/control tactic, including adding in additional locks. Others simply had a solid attacker take six Prizes while your opponent struggled without Trainers.
Dark Vileplume’s early Unlimited and Standard (Modified) performance was almost totally ruined by three cards: Slowking (Neo Genesis 14/111), Pichu (Neo Genesis 12/111), and Igglybuff (Neo Discovery 40/75). To give you an idea, Neo Genesis officially released on December 16, 2000, while Neo Discover was the next set, officially released on June 1, 2001. Slowking was simply a powerful rival to Dark Vileplume, its “Mind Games” Pokémon Power blocking an opponent from using a Trainer and forcing them to place it on top of their deck if you got “heads” on a coin toss. While this wasn’t a guaranteed lock, it meant running an 80 HP Stage 1 instead of a 60 HP Stage 2, didn’t affect your Trainer usage, and multiple instances of Mind Games would stack (flip separately for each).
Pichu was a 30 HP attacker and might have been a glass canon except it was an old school Baby Pokémon – a subclass of Basic, not just a nickname like in the present. That meant it had the protection of the Baby Rule, which forced the opposing player to flip a coin when wanting to attack and – if “tails” – that player’s turn would end before actually attacking. For [C], its “Zzap” attack did 20 damage to everything in play with a Pokémon Power, regardless of which player was using it. Igglybuff was the final nail in the coffin; another Baby Pokémon, it had a Pokémon Power (“Gaze”) that shut down one Pokémon Power on your opponent’s side of the field until the end of the turn; suddenly Hay Fever was only affecting the player running it! More than one instance of Gaze could be used in a turn, and it was also a natural counter to Slowking, though not enough of one as Slowking would be banned during the next Standard Format.
There were other Pokémon that mattered, but these were the three that seemed to matter the most. They weren’t the end of Dark Vileplume, however. Before the Unlimited Format was doomed by decks that literally won Turn 1, there were lock decks that effectively won Turn 1 and Dark Vileplume was part of some of those. Before that, there was a period when Dark Vileplume had access to Rare Candy, and Rare Candy could be used to Evolve on your first turn. Though I could be mistaken about that being a distinct period, as it wasn’t like I had official tournament results to go by, just local League play. So, what about the scores?
No Unlimited Format score; as I’ve said, I haven’t played it in over 10 years and my knowledge was shakey even then. It can’t be used in the Standard or Expanded Formats, and due to how cards have changed a true reprint would be impossible. There have been many cards that homage it over the years, usually stopping Items (instead of all Trainers), some of which have been very powerful in their own right. I must confess some morbid curiosity about Hay Fever returning to the game with its original effect but as an Ability… but that would probably cause huge problems. You probably won’t ever get the chance to use this at a Limited Format event, given how old Team Rocket is as a set, but if you do, only run it because Dark Gloom is so good. Odds are your opponent will have few Trainer cards, but Pollen Stench can be amazing here so you may as well have the option.
Hay Fever was an incredibly potent, though double-edged, Pokémon Power attached to a very fragile flower. Still, I loved running my “lovely black rose” and it might be fun to play around with in the Unlimited Format, casually if not competitively, or retro Formats. It is also an excuse to bust out one of my favorite old-school emoticons.
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If the future of Pokemon has taught me anything, it’s that powerful lockdown effects will remain some of the strongest effects in the game regardless of the time frame.
Dark Vileplume is a Stage 2 Grass Pokemon, 60 HP, with a Fire Weakness, no Resistance, and a Retreat Cost of 2. By today’s standards, this Pokemon is horrendously outclassed based on HP alone, and Petal Whirlwind doesn’t do it any favors, as a 3-cost attack that flips 3 coins to deal 30 damage for every heads, which then confuses Dark Vileplume if 2 or more of the coins do end up as heads. Of course you’ll never want to attack with Dark Vileplume so you can avoid the Confusion and prevent it from shutting down its Poke-Power, Hay Fever, which says simply that no Trainer cards can be played.
This is one of the abilities that have been virtually synonymous with Vileplume throughout its history, if it isn’t getting shoved into some kind of gimmicky ability that relies on Poison or doing 4x Weakness. The thing about Dark Vileplume that separates it from its siblings though is the fact that this is a Poke-Power, which means that it gets shut down if Dark Vileplume is ever affected by a Status Condition. Compare this to Vileplume (UD) who has a Poke-Body that doesn’t get shut down by these Statuses, or even compare this with Vileplume-ex who just shuts down Trainers for your opponent as long as she’s active, and you get to see how the game has evolved far beyond Dark Vileplume’s own power.
I think around the time Dark Vileplume was released, it didn’t really see much play – the main strategy back in those days was more centralized around Basic Pokemon that had higher HP scores than Dark Vileplume and dealt actual damage, not so much on the Powers that certain Pokemon had. So while Dark Vileplume might not have ever been a threat back in its day, it turns out that it would end up creating one of the most powerful types of effects in the game.
Standard: N/A (after a big of adjustment to the HP and the attack, Dark Vileplume would definitely see play here for the lock)
Expanded: N/A (even in this environment, I think there are Vileplume that see some experimentation for very similar Abilities)
Limited: 3.5/5 (there are some potent Trainers here to shut down, though a Stage 2 investment is still pretty hard to argue)
Arora Notealus: Hard to believe that there were effects back in the day that would deal with Trainer cards the way we see Pokemon frequently shut down Abilities in today’s game. Garbodor, Wobbuffet, Vileplume, there are a few Pokemon that have become notorious for their impact on the game because of effects similar to this, and even Seismitoad-EX had a long run for its time because it had the effect to shut down Items – which nowadays are only part of the Trainer category of cards!
Next Time: A dark team of supreme power comes forth to the forefront!
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