– Cosmic Eclipse
Nov. 25, 2019
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Empoleon gets another appearance in the competitive scene, this time being in Sun & Moon Cosmic Eclipse. Once again, Empoleon gets more love than the other Sinnoh starters, which gets shafted in my eyes. Still, some Empoleon cards don’t seem to disappoint when it comes to what it does. Both of this Empoleon’s attacks cost Colorless energies, which is nice, as it can make some power plays with off type basic energies, like Welder attaching two Fire energies to Empoleon and drawing three cards, or numerous Special Energy cards that provide a single Colorless Energy (Draw Energy’s probably the best one). Though you’ll need to attach just one unless you want to also use Aquafall, which costs CC for 130 damage as well as discarding all energies attached to Empoleon. Even though you could grab a suprise KO against Fire Pokemon, the discard keeps it from attacking every single time.
Recall, on the other hand, is a familiar attack that’s seen on Charizard from XY Generations. It costs a single energy and lets you use one of your attacks from its previous Evolutions. In Empoleon’s case, it gets access to Piplup and Prinplup’s attacks as long as they’re under Empoleon. If you used Rare Candy to skip Piplup to Empoleon, it only gains access to just Piplup’s attacks and not Prinplup. Attacks used via Recall can be initiated regardless of the attack cost. You’ll need just C as opposed to whatever the original attack cost is. The usefulness of Recall depends on the attacks found on various Piplup and Prinplup’s attack. Most of them (even cards from the Unlimited card pool) are so lackluster that it’s just not worth accessing, but the Piplup line from Cosmic Eclipse actually caught my eye.
Piplup has an attack called Bubble Hold, which cost WWW, but Recall lets you use it for just C. It does 80 damage, and if the opponent’s Active Pokemon is a Basic Pokémon, that Pokémon cannot attack. This is a soft lock as your opponent would have to find a way to switch/bounce out their Active Pokemon. And considering that Basic EX/GX or even Tag Teams can’t stand not being able to attack, it’d be a matter of time until they eventually go down for multiple prizes of those Pokémon decides to stay. But then it doesn’t help that once the Active Pokemon gets KO, they’ll replace it another Pokémon, not care about the lock because it doesn’t affect them, and proceed to attack Empoleon (and could KO if it does 160 damage or more).
One of Prinplup’s attacks is called Direct Dive, which costs WWW, but again, Recall lets you attack for just C. It forces you to discard ALL energy from this Pokémon to deal 100 damage to one of your opponent’s Benched Pokemon. This is a decent chunk of damage to hit the Bench with. While it may take multiple hits to EX/GX and Tag Teams, there are others that can be OHKOed by this attack. Malamar FBL, Jirachi TEU, and even Lost March gets taken down one by one. Fortunately, you only need to discard one energy because you’re using Recall to access and use attacks that doesn’t need the original attack cost. Had it been that you must meet the attack cost, then discarding three energies can severely limit how often you’ll use Direct Dive, let alone not being able to last on the field.
So that’s some of the examples that Empoleon can use via Recall, and as I said it before, you have to have both Piplup and Prinplup under Empoleon, which is a problem. You have to wait at least two turns to manually evolve if you decide to skip Rare Candy, and even Rare Candy has issues, like missing out from Prinplup because you skipped from a Basic into a Stage 2. As with almost all Stage 2s, deck space as well as swarming those attackers can put a strain to deckbuilding and consistency. You can make Stage 2 decks work, and it hasn’t faded from the competitive scene entirely. This really needs a Stadium equivalent to Broken Time Space, but such a hypothetical card will get banned instantly, so that’s out of the picture.
I don’t think the other Empoleon cards would complement today’s Empoleon, as Recall is it’s selling point in Standard. However, in Expanded, there is another Empoleon that could be used alongside today’s card. The one from Black & White Dark Explorers has the Diving Draw Ability which lets you discard a card from your hand in order to draw 2 cards. You can do a 2-2 or a 3-1 split if you like. There’s also Empoleon BREAK, but it’s pretty situational. It raises today’s card Max HP from 160 to 170 and adds an attack. Emperor’s Command cost WC and does 30 damage times the number of Pokémon your opponent has in play. So unless you’re facing a full setup of Pokémon that was put into play, you’ll be better off using Recall to use either Bubble Hold or Direct Dive. Speaking of Direct Dive, even though it doesn’t apply Weakness and Resistance to Benched Pokemon, Wide Lens bypasses this obstacle by actually exploiting Weakness and Resistance. Any water weak Pokémon sitting on the Bench will take 200 damage, enough to KO for multiple prizes. And Max Potion can be a lifesaver if Empoleon is heavily damaged, and Recall is just one attachment away! These are some cards that Empoleon can work with, but there’s always going to be a better attacker and be efficient.
Empoleon can be decent in Limited if you can get it out, and Recall is wonderful there, locking almost all of the basic Pokémon with Bubble Hold or a majority of Pokémon sitting on the Bench via Direct Dive. You can easily acquire copies of the 3-2-2 line if the prerelease promo that you’ve pulled is a Phione. It also appears in the Kyogre Theme Deck, and it might do fine there as well.
If Empoleon is going to get access to previous attacks, it needs the speed to be put into play quickly, ideally the same turn you evolved or put into play. And unfortunately, there isn’t any unbanned cards that let you evolve quickly in any format outside of Unlimited (which can allow almost any card whatsoever). I liked the concept of what this card does, but in a hostile environment in which big basics still rule over various formats, Empoleon isn’t going to be played fast enough to handle various Pokémon most frequently seeing play. However, if you don’t care about Direct Dive, then maybe you can get away with Rare Candy and just get access to Bubble Hold, which can frustrate big basics. You still have to wait a turn to evolve, and Piplup is vulnerable to be Knocked Out on the Active or even the Bench.
Here’s my personal sample Welder Empoleon deck for Expanded:
Expanded has very good draw engine utilizing Fire energies.
And here’s my personal sample Welder Empoleon deck for Standard:
Trainers – 33
No recovery. Either get those Empoleons in play or concede.
Empoleon (SM – Cosmic Eclipse 56/236) opens this week. We’re back to [W] Typing for the “Emperor Pokémon”, which is valuable for punishing the strong (though not overwhelming) [R] presence in the modern metagame. Being a Stage 2 hurts but – as well soon see – it is actually vital to this card. 160 HP is solid for a Stage 2; decks aiming for 2HKO’s of the biggest Pokémon might still fall short of a OHKO. [L] Weakness is not a happy thing; Pikachu & Zekrom-GX aren’t the only threat, but they’re they most obvious. No Resistance is typical, though it would be nice given the HP. The Retreat Cost of [CC] is also typical, stinging every so slightly as it means Escape Board or U-Turn Board can’t zero out the cost entirely.
The first attack is “Recall” priced at [C]. Its effect lets you pick an attack from one of the Pokémon’s previous Stages and use it as this attack… meaning you can use any attack from a Piplup or Prinplup that is under Empoleon. If these two lower Stages have worthwhile attacks, it could be brilliant; if they don’t, it might be totally worthless. We’ll come back to it. “Aquafall” costs [CC] and does 130 damage, but also states you must discard all Energy from this Pokémon. Not enough to 2HKO most TAG TEAM Pokémon – and even missing the OHKO on Reshiram & Charizard-GX – its still adequate damage for the price. The Energy costs for these attacks mean Recycle Energy, Triple Acceleration Energy, even basic Fire Energy with Welder can all cover your needs.
The most likely lower Stages you’ll use with Empoleon are Piplup (SM – Cosmic Eclipse 54/236, 239/236) and Prinplup (SM – Cosmic Eclipse 54/236) because instead of pre-nerfing them, they seem designed to exploit Recall! I’m not really worried about their stats, save that they’re both [W] Types and Piplup has 60 HP (legal Professor Elm’s Lecture target). Piplup knows “Bubble Hold” while Prinplup brings “Water Drip” and “Direct Dive”. Bubble Hold does 80 damage and, if the defending Pokémon is a Basic, keeps it from attacking during your opponent’s next turn. Water Drip cost [W] and does 20. Direct Dive can only hit one of your opponent’s Benched Pokémon (your choice) and forces you to discard all Energy attached Prinplup (or whatever used the attack), but it does do 100 damage to the target.
Water Drip will probably never be needed, but the other two attacks do very good damage for the Energy when used via Recall (but not on Piplup or Prinplup). Bubble Hold’s effect can cripple decks that rely mostly or entirely on Basic attackers. While Mew (SM – Unbroken Bonds 76/214; SM – Black Star Promos SM215) ruins Direct Dive, opponent’s without such protection may struggle as evolving Basics or smaller Bench-sitters are taken down in one hit. 100 damage is enough to finish off something injured trying to hide on the Bench, and that isn’t as rare in Standard between the size of TAG TEAM Pokémon and our lack of cards like Guzma or Lysandre.
I am happy to report Empoleon has already made good in competitive play… but in Japan. The short version is the deck does include cards no longer in our Standard Format but it may be possible to build something similar with what we do have… or just something different that still takes advantage of what Empoleon can do. Speaking of a larger cardpool, I’m curious if Empoleon could surprise us in Expanded. So many additional threats but so many additional combos! Probably not worth it, but part of me wants to see someone run this Empoleon with Empoleon BREAK; you’ll only gain 10 HP (and the attack on Empoleon BREAK) but it would still have access to Recall… and Recall could now be used on Aquafall.
For the Limited Format, Piplup and Prinplup have pricey attacks, which could hurt you as you’re not always going to reach Empoleon. When you do, though, it should be pretty amazing unless you’re crashing into an equally well setup opponent. Empoleon can be found in the “Unseen Depths” Theme Deck as a 3-3-2 line. 130 is the deck’s damage cap (before Weakness), Empoleon’s more technical attacks can still give it the edge. The deck has some decent-ish other attackers, so if Empoleon is slow to show, all hope is not lost. Still, the big thing is that exploiting [W] Weakness is valuable but our last few [W] decks have been disappointing. I’m thinking Unseen Depths is now the go-to [W] deck for the Theme Format.
Empoleon might be one of the new Stage 2 Pokémon that actually manage a competitive deck, but we can’t do exactly what worked in Japan, and may even have to take a significantly different approach. At the very least I think it looks like a promising “budget deck” candidate. Faced with the competition from so many other cards this set, however, and Empoleon only managed 17th place. It didn’t make my Top 11, either, though it did catch my eye.
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