– Rebel Clash
August 10, 2020
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
The defining trait of Dragapult (SSH – Rebel Clash 91/192) is its Ability, “Infiltrator”. Anytime an attack would damage this Dragapult, you flip a coin; “tails” means the damage happens normally, while “heads” means the damage is completely prevented. This effect works against any attack on either player’s turn, regardless of whether Dragapult is your Active or on your Bench. If multiple of your Pokémon are being hit, it won’t protect other Pokémon. If multiple copies of this Dragapult are hit, each copies Infiltrator will attempt to protect that copy, and you flip for each separately. As you’d expect with these binary results, approximately half the time this Ability is great, the other half, it is like it doesn’t exist at all. Approximately? Infiltrator does you know good if your opponent isn’t attacking Dragapult for damage: bench hits, direct damage counter placement, and various other effects mean you don’t even bother flipping for Infiltrator.
Even when it comes to damaging attacks, sometimes you’ll succeed when the damage reduction won’t matter. Like when your opponent is using a smaller attack for its non-damage effect, but next turn they’ll switch to a different attack (or attacker) and be swinging hard enough to OHKO Dragapult next turn. So, really, the best Infiltrator can do is protect you up to half the time. That’s still really good, but it needs to be kept in perspective… and some of that comes from the rest of the card. For example, Dragapult is just that, a plain ol’ Dragapult: no specialty mechanics like being a Pokémon V, or the now-dated Ultra Beast or Prism Star classifications. Which means, even when you fail the flip and your opponent KO’s Dragapult, you’re only down one Prize.
Dragapult is a Stage 2 Pokémon, so you’re talking a minimum of three cards and two turns for it to hit the field. The only available Dreepy and Drakloak are filler, so this is definitely a drawback for the card. What about more extreme shortcuts, like Meganium (SM – Lost Thunder 8/214) or Cradily (BW – Plasma Blast 4/101)? The cards and time it takes them to evolve still count against Dragapult, at least in my book. Regardless of your approach, anything other than Dragapult provides a target to attack which lacks Infiltrator’s protection. Dragapult is a Psychic type, which is decent for type-matching. Expect this to shift a bit due to how the types are represented post-Sword & Shield, especially in Standard; both [P] Weakness and Resistance are becoming less common.
Dragapult has 150 HP, enough to be a little more likely to survive a hit than not, but I’m speaking in general. You should know by the time Dragapult hits the field whether or not you’re facing a deck focused on OHKOing, 2HKOing, etc. your Pokémon. The huge exception for this is against Darkness types; Spiritomb (SM – Unbroken Bonds 112/214) are a significant threat, and SSH – Darkness Ablaze appears to spotlight Darkness Pokémon, so this may in fact be the current worst Weakness. [30 [F] Resistance is appreciated, though we’ll see if it actually matters given the amount of competitive [F] decks and how multi-type decks just need to shift attackers. That free Retreat Cost is perfect: it isn’t enough to justify running Dragapult on its own, but its a great bonus. [PP] pays for its “Phantom Force” attack, which does 120 damage to your opponent’s Active and places three damage counters on your opponent’s Benched Pokémon. All three can go on a single target, or distributed between multiple targets as you wish. Not enough for reliable 2HKO’s, but the damage counter aspect opens up additional strategy and even on a Stage 2, [PP] is a pretty nice cost.
There were some expecting Dragapult decks to be big. I honestly can’t remember if I was one of them, but this didn’t make my Top 15 for this set, so at least by then I was no longer aboard the hype train. Dragapult V/VMAX decks have seen tremendous success; regular Dragapult has not. No results from recent events, and it has only been legal for those events. That means it wasn’t legal for the last major Expanded Format tournament, but I suspect it wouldn’t do very well there; Abilities are far easier to negate in Expanded. Dragapult should be pretty good in the Limited Format. Your opponent likely isn’t hitting as hard, so Infiltrator has more chances to matter. HP scores are lower and retreating an injured Pokémon to hide it on the Bench is a common strategy in Limited, so the bonus Bench damage counters are also more valuable.
Generally speaking, players are skittish around relying on too many coin flips, so even though Infiltrator offers protection, it isn’t reliable enough for the investment Dragapult requires. One shouldn’t write it off completely, however; Infiltrator is potent enough that it has long term potential. If you can deny your opponent effects like that of Boss’s Orders, Infiltrator may be able to wall. Additional control, or at least disruption, elements can also reduce how hard your opponent’s Pokémon can hit, which would mean a failed Infiltrator is less of a problem.
We would love more volunteers to help us with our Card of the Day reviews. If you want to share your ideas on cards with other fans, feel free to drop us an email. We’d be happy to link back to your blog / YouTube Channel / etc. 😉
Click here to read our Pokémon Card of the Day Archive. We have reviewed more than 3500 Pokemon cards over the last 17+ years!