– Ultra Prism
February 21, 2018
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Monday’s and Tuesday’s reviews are now posted. Aactually, they went up on those days, just later than everyone else’s; please give them a read even if you already saw the rest of the crew’s articles.
Empoleon (SM – Ultra Prism 34/156) made two of our individual top 10 lists and one top 20, earning 29 voting points; the card that ranked after it also earned 29 points, but only appeared on two lists (and will be reviewed Friday). So, what has people excited about Empoleon? “Total Command” is its attack, and for [WC] it does 20 damage times the total number of Benched Pokémon in play. The card even reminds you that it counts the Benches of both players, so without an effect that alters Bench size, this big blue bird can swing for 200 damage for just two Energy. As a [W] Type, it can tap Aqua Patch to speed up those Energy attachments (and in Expanded, perhaps use Archie’s Ace in the Hole). Empoleon also has a fairly sturdy 160 HP; as a lot of decks hit 170-190 via Choice Band, a non-Pokémon-EX/GX is almost as durable with less HP. [L] Weakness isn’t too bad right now, as it isn’t a heavily used Type. The second attack, “Whirlpool” is decent; though it needs [WWC] just to do 90 damage, it discards an Energy attached to your opponent’s Active.
So, those were the cards “pros”, how about its “cons”? No Resistance is the worst Resistance… but actually not a big deal. Same for the Retreat Cost of [CC]; this is high enough you won’t want to pay it, but if it is only once in a while, it isn’t too bad when you actually have to manually retreat at full price. The real issue is that this is a Stage 2, so unless you use Archie’s Ace in the Hole, you have to play a Piplup and Prinplup. The best of these are probably SM – Ultra Prism 32/156 and SM – Ultra Prism 33/156, respectively; the former simply because it has 70 HP (at least 10 more than any other option), and the latter because it has 90 HP (tied for the highest) and a barely useful attack in “Bubble Beam” (costs [W], does 20 damage, also flips to inflict Paralysis). Another issue is that many of us were expecting [M] decks to take off, with [R] decks close behind to exploit Weakness… which sets up for more [W] decks. This could still happen, but it didn’t the first two Regionals where SM – Ultra Prism was legal.
Total Command is potent and reminiscent of “Attack Command”, and attack for [W] found on Empoleon (BW – Dark Explorers 29/108; BW – Plasma Freeze 117/116). This Empoleon enjoyed a lot of time as a sort-of competitive deck, and a little time as an actually competitive deck. In fact, it still is in the Legacy Format… but in both cases, it is part of some interesting combo decks, backed by something like Dusknoir (BW – Boundaries Crossed 63/149; BW – Plasma Blast 104/101). I also left out something even more important: this Empoleon has the Ability “Diving Draw”, which allows you to discard a card from your hand to draw two cards. Sound familiar? Yeah, this was doing it before Zoroark-GX came around with “Trade”. Today’s Empoleon has stronger attacks, but the strength of this card was a good attack and a good Ability, combined. Empoleon still has some chops, so you should expect to see people at least trying to make it work… maybe even succeeding. It just didn’t happen this past weekend, so I’m not getting my hopes up. If it can play nicely with the Empoleon I mentioned above, perhaps it will have a better chance in Expanded… where it also has access to Sky Field. I wouldn’t get too worked up over hitting for up to 320 with Total Command… as your opponent will probably have many counters because of all the other Pokémon with Bench-size based damage.
This is a great card for the Limited Format, and my understanding is that it isfeatured in one of the “Evolution Packs”; no, I still haven’t been able to attend a Pre-Release. As long as that is true, you should have a solid core for a variety of decks, as Empoleon doesn’t demand you run a pure [W] deck. Where I have seen it shine is in the Theme Format on the PTCGO, as it is the star of the “Imperial Command” Theme Deck. I haven’t used it much (yet), but I’ve faced it quite a bit and it is one of the better SM-era Theme decks, in part because Empoleon is so vicious once it gets going! With all that said, if you’re wondering how this card placed in my own Top 20, the answer is… it didn’t. I was leaning towards sticking it somewhere in the bottom half, then the bottom quarter, and then it just got bumped off the list. I remember how the older Empoleon took a while to catch on while having an Ability that was really, really great. This Empoleon isn’t washed up, but its ship hasn’t come in yet.
Empoleon makes another appearance on the TCG scene in Sun & Moon Ultra Prism. A Stage 2 Water type with 160 HP, weak to Lightning, and a retreat of two, it has two attacks. Total Command costs WL and does 20 damage times the amount of Benched Pokemon in play (both players). Whirlpool does 90 for WWC and discards and energy from your opponent’s Active Pokemon. Probably a decent fallback option if Total Command isn’t doing enough damage. However, Total Command would be the reason to use today’s Empoleon.
Total Command is a total improvement (pun intended) over it’s previous “Command” incarnations from Empoleon from BW Dark Explorers and Empoleon BREAK because it can do more damage than Attack Command and Emperor’s Command to some extent. Attack Command costs W and does 10 damage for each Pokemon in play, both yours and your opponent. This could do between 20 damage to 120 damage (180 with Sky Field). While Total Command excludes both Active Pokemon, with both players with full benches, you can do 200 damage, outdoing Attack Command. Emperor’s Command heavily relies on your opponent’s setup, doing between 30 to 180 (270 with Sky Field) depending on how many Pokémon your opponent has in play. Unfortunately for all three attacks, they can be a near-total or total waste (pun intended again), if either or both player’s setup is minuscule.
Speaking about Empoleon BREAK, you do have the option to break evolve and get access to Emperor’s Command while maintaining most attributes from its previous evolution. Adding 10 more HP from today’s Empoleon won’t seem much, but having an odd number in increments of ten can mess with X2 weakness, sometimes surviving with 10 HP left.
Other Empoleon cards that are worth considering are……..well, I can think of only one in Expanded. Empoleon (BW Dark Explorers) brings not only Attack Command, but a very good ability. Diving Draw does the same thing Zoroark-GX does: discard a card from your hand and draw two cards. Combine the ability with Mallow, who is a Supporter card that lets you pick 2 cards from your deck and put these cards on top of your deck ready to be too drawn, your consistency gets a huge boost, getting you exactly the cards you need to advance your game plan or to turn things around. If you really like this ability, you can do a 2-2 split of DEX Empoleon and today’s card. And if you add Empoleon Break to the mix, you got access to holy trinity Command style attacks. So that’s Expanded’s setup, what about Standard? You’ll have to add a 2-2 Zoroark GX line which has the same ability, but Riotous Beating is splashable, and the damage is great if your own setup has a full bench and the Active. But at this point, wouldn’t it be better to use just Zoroark-GX and drop Empoleon completely? Not quite, maybe the Water typing is what’s needed for certain matchups.
Empoleon shows some potential in Standard, and has even more cards to work with in Expanded. In Limited, one of the Evolutions pack contains a 2-2-2 Empoleon line, so you can actually construct them if you like. And finally, Empoleon is the face of the Imperial Command theme deck, so it should be able to do well there.
As Ultra Prism is an expansion which, has finally brought competitive decks to the mainstream as it finally fits in 2 of some of the best deck cores in the format, it is well timed that we looked at one. And it is also fitting that we looked at the one we considered the better of the 2 – Empoleon!
Empoleon is a Stage 2 Pokemon but it has 160 HP, making it bulky in an aspect. The 160 HP tier is one of the best HP counts in this meta, as it avoids so many important numbers that the most popular Pokemon is only capable of dishing out. It has a 2 retreat cost, which is understandable considering Empoleon is a bulky Pokemon. A weakness to Lightning is very favorable – Lightning attackers are rarely around aside from the rogue Raichu-GX and Tapu Koko-GX – making sure that it actually stays in the board for longer periods of time. Being a Water type means that it has lots of supports; Brooklet Hill lets you search your Piplups easily, Aqua Patch powers up Empoleon which helps given its attack costs and Splash Energy allows recovery of Empoleon lines when one is knocked out. In short, unlike Garchomp, Empoleon has more type supports for it to thrive. Another thing it has going for it is availability – it can be found in the “Imperial Command” Theme Deck, and like Garchomp buying 2 nets you some parts of the Empoleon deck, but possibly only 60% of it.
It does have 2 attacks, like Garchomp ever did. We’ll gloss over the second attack Whirlpool which for [W][W][C] deals 90 and discards an energy on the opposing Pokemon on a heads. It’s not the attack that made Empoleon. It’s the first attack, Total Command – for [W][C] it deals 20x the number of all benched Pokemon in play. When you fill your own bench, you deal 100 damage. But thanks to the meta shifting to evolution-based decks which needs a lot of bench space, you can actually coerce your opponent to fill their bench to deal a total of 200 damage (230 with a Choice Band). Sounds familiar? It should. This is the Water version of Shiftry FLF’s Deranged Dance which costs 1 [C] less and it has more energy acceleration options than just the Milotic FLF from when Shiftry is still legal in Standard. Better still, thanks to there being Pokemon with Water weakness, Empoleon can hit for Weakness, reducing the need to continuously chain OHKO combos, on which Garchomp can’t. There is also the fact that Empoleon has more type supports than just a Lucario, Cynthia and Devoured Field in Garchomp – Tapu Fini-GX can be used to handle Stage 2 Pokemon-GXs better, Manaphy-EX (XY BKP) provides free Retreat, Octillery (XY BKT) hits the draw support power category with Abyssal Hand and Glaceon-GX helps slow down opponent’s with Freezing Eyes (more will be discussed later). This all combined means that Empoleon does have an easier time setting up than its dragon Theme Deck-fest counterpart and is the one that may see more success.
However, even when Empoleon is poised to be a strong 1 prize attacker that carries off the legacy of Greninja BREAK, it is still poised with issues. First and foremost is the fact that it is a Stage 2 Pokemon; this means, like Garchomp it needs Rare Candy and can dead draw. Unlike Garchomp, Empoleon doesn’t have the precision setup that Lucario provides for Garchomp decks and have to hope for top decks to be filched with Octillery. Since you are playing with bench sizes, Pokemon which also plays with bench sizes such as Lycanroc-GX (SM GUR), Silvally-GX (SM CRI) and opposing Empoleon can muller you down as well when you miss a beat or two in inputting prize counts. But that is a small price to pay when you can have a Pokemon that can attack for cheap with potentially extreme payoffs that can also mix it up with the best in the format.
Limited: 5/5 (one of the best prerelease kit cores there is.)
Empoleon (UP 34) nobly descends into the meta from the Ultra Prism expansion set. This 160 HP Stage 2 Pokemon has seen much interest because of its Water and Colorless energy attack Total Command. This attack does twenty damage times each benched Pokemon. If both players have full benches, Emploeon’s two attachment attack does 200 base damage.
And Empoleon can use a couple of Special energy to aid it as well in Splash and Counter Energy. You might even get to use its other attack Whirlpool – it could be advantageous to do a little less damage but discard an energy if you were going to two shot somebody anyways. Empoleon also has Aqua Patch, Lana, and other various tools that are Water Pokemon exclusive to help make it work.
Unfortunately, it’s just not a top tier Pokemon – I don’t know if any Stage 2 can be at this point in the format. I’ve gone 4 W 6 L with a couple of different builds, but it just doesn’t have what it takes to be competitive. It’s too slow to develop, and it’s super susceptible to Cyrus and Parallel City. I’m 4 W 2 L against it, and the two losses were back at the beginning of the month (I was playing Dugtrio and Regigigas Hoopa).
Standard: 2.5 out of 5
Now, once we get Wake in the next expansion, and you could easily go get Rare Candy and a Stage 2 and then just Space Bacon back the two energy, then you’ve got yourself a deck that’s definitely closer to Tier 1 status. Unfortunately, right now Empoleon is great if you have a Water challenge on PTCGO but won’t consistently win for you in today’s format.
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