March 22, 2018
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
For today’s review, we’re going pretty far back in the history of the TCG. Not all the way back to the beginning of the game, but we are going back to nearly the beginning of Nintendo/TPCi’s time running the game (under various names or subdivisions); for those who don’t know, Wizards of the Coast originally handled translating, distributing, and running the Pokémon TCG outside of Japan from 1998 to 2003. Officially, WotC lost the license to the game October 1, 2003, but they effectively lost it much earlier, with the first TPCi produced expansion (EX – Ruby & Sapphire) officially releasing June 18 of that same year. Our subject today is Dunsparce (EX – Sandstorm 60/100), from the second expansion released under TPCi, back on on September 17, 2003. Keep in mind, barring the odd exception here or there, neither TPCi nor WotC actually design the cards for the TCG; while many changes were afoot, the same folks were still in charge of creating new cards, updating the rules, etc. I would also like to draw attention to the “EX” prefix in the set name. Pokémon-EX would not release for nearly nine more years, however, their predecessors Pokémon-ex debuted in EX – Ruby & Sapphire. Pokémon-ex are mechanically very similar to Pokémon-EX, but the game does consider them different. Now that we have Pokémon-GX, Pokémon-ex feel like a half-step between them; worth two Prizes, having more HP and/or better effects, but still being their usual Stage of Evolution (and no equivalent to the GX-attack). It remained legal for Standard Format play until the rotation that occurred September 1, 2005.
You may be wondering if Dunspare was worth all that backstory? The answer is a resounding yes, but you may not think so with a glance. Even though it has been almost 15 years since this card was Standard legal, most of its stats mean the same now as they did then, give or take a bit of power creep. Being a non-Evolving Basic Pokémon was a potential dead end, as this card was legal during the handful of formats where Evolutions – even as attackers – ruled the roost. Before anyone gets too excited, reread what I just wrote; it was great that Evolutions were competitive, but it came at the cost of non-Evolving Basics (and Evolving Basics were still usually just filler). In other words, the game still wasn’t balanced, they just flipped the imbalance in the opposite direction of what we were used to seeing. Being a [C] Type didn’t mean much; [C] Weakness would be introduced in the next set, [C] Resistance a few sets later, and there were a few effects that cared about being a [C] Type but it didn’t mean much to Dunsparce. 50 HP would last longer early game for reasons I’ll get into, but mid-to-late game it was an easy OHKO. [F] Weakness was less dangerous at that exact time, while no Resistance was a little more disappointing as the lower average damage output allowed it to matter a bit more often. A Retreat Cost of [C] was still very good.
Onto the attacks; we’re going to cover the second attack before the first, because “Sudden Flash” is adequate filler. For [C] the attack does 10 damage, then has you flip a coin; “tails” changes nothing, but “heads” means it also Paralyzes the Defending Pokémon. Handy in a pinch, but and perhaps a bit better than similar filler attacks of the day. “Strike and Run” also only requires [C], and it helped define the Standard Format of the day. How? It allows you to search your deck for not one, not two, but up to three Basic Pokémon and put them on your Bench. Wait, there’s more! It then gives you the option of sending Dunsparce itself to the Bench and promoting something else into the Active position! Remember that seemingly pointless bit where I went on about Pokémon-ex? Most Basic Pokémon-ex weren’t especially competitive, but the Evolved ones were the dominant force in the metagame. Strike and Run allowed you to get some of the few Basic Pokémon-ex that mattered, but most decks would use it to get three Basics you wanted to Evolve next turn and get them into play. If you had something that made for a better Active, you could promote it as well! In other words, Strike and Run is a better Brigette, at least ignoring the part where it is an attack. Even considering it, Strike and Run might be on par with that Supporter.
Dunsparce was not the only worthwhile “opener” while it was legal, but it was one of the best; any other options I clearly recall were deck-specific like Team Magma’s Zangoose (EX – Team Magma VS Team Aqua 23/95) or Wynaut (EX – Sandstorm 54/100). Though it is a skewed view, if you look up the four decks selected for release as the 2004 World Championship Theme Decks, you’ll find three out of four use Dunsparce (the four is a Team Magma Deck, using Team Magma’s Zangoose). Half of the 2005 World Championship Theme Decks used Dunsparce at that time, the last major event where it was Standard-legal, though the Jirachi (EX – Deoxys 9/107)/Swoop! Teleporter (EX – Team Rocket Returns 92/109) combo had already begun replacing it. In fact, it was played alongside Dunsparce in one of those two decks and was used in one of the two lacking Dunsparce. Everything else to say about this card is just clarifying some more major differences between then and now. The EX-era marked the first time we had specific “first turn” rules (apart from no Evolving). The player going first didn’t get to draw nor use a Supporter but could attack… which made cards like Dunsparce even more important.
So, what if they re-released this card in the present? I think it would be a good thing, even though I doubt it would see the kind of play it did back in the day due to the current first turn rules. Unfortunately, I am almost completely certain this won’t be happening, because of the most recent Dunsparce released, XY – BREAKpoint 90/122. I think it is meant as an “update” to this one, having very similar stats and attacks that each still cost [C] and do similar – but not the same – thing as those found on today’s Dunsparce. It does enjoy 60 HP, but Strike and Run has been replaced with “Call for Family”, Benching just a single Basic Pokémon from your deck; the filler attack “Ram” does 20 damage, which would have been amazing back when today’s Dunsparce released, but usually isn’t worth it now. It is either expensive or difficult to hold a Limited Format event with EX – Sandstorm product, and I’m not sure if it even can be sanctioned, but if you somehow manage it, this is a great pull and a must run.
Today, we’re taking another look at Dunsparce from Japanese’s Champion’s Road subset. Why another look though? Well, this card is actually a reprint from Dunsparce (EX Sandstorm 60/100). You can read the reviews here (https://www.pojo.com/dunsparce-pokemon-card-review-cotd/); Otaku explained pretty well while I briefly chimed in but suddenly lost my train of thought. The old copy of Dunsparce can actually be used in Standard play, if you still have it for 15+ years! The listed median for this card is currently $9……..for a card that’s labeled as common rarity!
Dunsparce was one of the best Pokémon to start with at the beginning of the match. That was also a time where you were able to attack first turn, unlike 2013 onwards. I don’t know what partners that accompany Dunsparce for that time period, but I can imagine it was a lot. Which makes me fast forward to present time. If it was good before, it will still be a power play now. Sure, you might not be able to attack first turn, but beyond that point, you can still get your Basic Pokemon ready for your next turn, whether it be evolving Basics being Rare Candied and/or Basic EX/GX Pokemon. As a added twist, after you put down 3 Basic Pokemon, you may switch Dunsparce with one of your Benched Pokemon. Probably the sneakiest tactic would be to bring out Wobbuffet (PHF, GEN) from your deck into your bench and switch Dunsparce with Wobbuffet to shut down abilities or Yveltal (BKT) to shut down Pokemon Tools.
Overall, I am excited to see this card return after a long absence. However, it may take a while to reach staple status because Brigette is still in Standard. I’m treating this paragraph as temporary; once the time comes, I will revise it. Sorry for the late review of this Throwback Thursdays, but at least I finally was able to give an insight to a card we haven’t thought about being re-released until now.
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