Donphan Prime – HGSS
Date Reviewed: January 27, 2022
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Another Throwback for this week, and this time, it’s another card from the Celebrations Classic Collection, being Donphan Prime from HeartGold & SoulSilver, released over a decade ago. And I used to own physical copies of it before I traded away a year ago.
Pokemon Prime is a mechanic, but ultimately, it doesn’t affect the card at all, being a baseline Pokemon without any special rules. I believe the only thing that sets Pokemon Prime apart is that it has a much higher rarity than if it was Holo Rare. The shining little white star on the bottom right corner means that it is an Ultra Rare, on par with future cards like Pokemon-EX and the like. In most cases, they’re designed to be more powerful than the non-Ultra Rare counterparts due to card effects, though there are some cards which could be debatable. That’s another story for another time, and only Donphan Prime is the only card that was featured in the Celebrations Classic Collection…
…because it was one of the most hyped cards at the time. Having 120 HP on a Stage 1 is almost unheard of in that era, where most HP scores in the HGSS series for Stage 1s were between 70 to 100. It also has a neat Poke-Body called Exoskeleton, which make Donphan take 20 less damage from attacks! Opponents have to deal 140 damage for the OHKO, or 80 damage from two separate attacks for the 2HKO. Lightning Pokemon had it worse; Because of Donphan’s Lightning resistance, they’ll have to do 160 damage for the OHKO, or 100 damage from two separate attacks for 2HKOs. Overall, this means Donphan will stick around for multiple turns, and we haven’t factored in healing cards such as Moomoo Milk. Eventually, Black & White Emerging Powers bring us Max Potion, which heals all damage from Donphan while discarding all energies attached to it, which is a small price to pay.
And we get to the attacks. Heavy Impact is largely ignored due to requiring three Fighting Energies, even though it does 90 damage. Earthquake, on the other hand, is frequently used a lot, costing a single Fighting Energy for sixty damage, while doing 20 damage to each of your own Benched Pokemon. This drawback is an inconvenience, depending how you look at it. Having no Benched Pokemon means there’s no drawback, and so is Donphan’s own Exoskeleton Poke-Body, which also takes no damage from Earthquake even if it is on the Bench. Now, sixty for one is an amazing damage-to-energy ratio, and it can be improved with other damage boosting cards like Expert Belt, which gives it even more HP and extra damaging capabilities! Add on Fighting Weakness found on most Pokemon that are Colorless, Lightning, or Darkness-type, and you have one of the few Pokemon that can OHKO Zekrom, one of the most dominating cards in the early days of the BW-era.
Though Donphan Prime based decks didn’t win either the 2010 or 2011 Pokemon World Championships, I used to have a small booklet of the 2011 World Championship containing decks that were placed 4th through 1st, and Donphan based decks – if I vaguely recall – were placed 4th in one of the competitors in the Junior Division. During the 2011 World Championship, the format used was HGSS-on due to the emergency rotation on July 1, 2011. So far, that’s the only time it got featured because it didn’t appear at all in the 2012 World Championships. Still, Donphan did had a good run, as it is one of the few Pokemon that isn’t a Basic Pokemon that can go toe-to-toe against some of the other Pokemon Basic Pokemon that the Black & White series offered.
There won’t be any ratings for the Standard or the Expanded format, and I’ll give just the score in the Legacy format, even though the Pokemon Trading Card Game Online is slated to eventually sunset and give way to Pokemon TCG Live. This format has cards from the HGSS and the BW series, so Donphan can be used there. With its damage reduction on top of cheap and powerful attacks, it could withstand its own, with the exception of when they used attacks that deals 150 or more damage or when Blastoise based decks can easily prey Donphan’s Water weakness. I guess those factors are keeping Donphan in check.
Donphan Prime was a great card and is still a good card in the Legacy Format, but like most cards from a decade ago, it gets power crept to the point where Donphan Prime simply couldn’t compete against newer cards. Speaking of Donphan and power creep, I’ve found another Donphan card in the Standard Format that is similar to this Throwback, minus the Poke-Body or ability: The sixth best card of Sword & Shield Vivid Voltage. It has the same Earthquake and Heavy Impact attacks. While Heavy Impact still does 90 damage, it costs FCC, and while Earthquake has the same self-inflicting damage, it does 120 damage, which is twice as much as this Throwback. Throw in a plethora of damaging boosting cards for Fighting types like Martial Arts Dojo, Diancie Prism Star, and Strong Energy, and Donphan will achieve 2HKOs on anything and even OHKOs due to Weakness.
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