Empoleon V
Empoleon V

Card – Battle Styles

Date Reviewed:
March 23, 2021

Ratings Summary:
Standard: 3.00
Expanded: 3.00

Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.

Reviews Below:

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Empoleon V (SW – Battle Styles 040/163, 145/163, 146/163) enjoys the bittersweet taste of an 11th-Place finish, just one shy of cracking the actual top 10.  As a Pokémon V, Empoleon V is worth an extra Prize when KO’d, can’t make use of some support (like Twin Energy), and has to deal with anti-V effects.  It means Empoleon V has a Rule Box, and is a Basic instead of being a Stage 2 (like baseline Empoleon cards), will have improved HP, and might have improved effects.  Empoleon V is a Rapid Strike Pokémon, which is going to prove important later on.

Empoleon V is a Water type, handy when attacking Fire types, but not for much else right now.  The type does have support, but I’m uncertain how much it will help Empoleon V, at least in Standard.  There’s also an outside chance being vulnerable to the “Thunderous Awakening” Ability of Jolteon (SW – Vivid Voltage 047/185) proving relevant.  Being a Basic is the best Stage; no waiting to evolve or need to run lower Stages.  In this case, potentially being your opening Active is also an advantage.  210 HP is the low-end of normal for Basic Pokémon V, but is there’s a solid chance you can survive a hit, so it is still good.

[L] Weakness is pretty awful to have right now; unless Fighting lives up to the hype and finally puts an end to Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks, there’s an excellent chance that attacks doing 110 damage through 200 damage go from 2HKOs to OHKOs.  No Resistance is the worst Resistance, but Resistance is actually a pretty balanced mechanic, unlike Weakness.  For better and worse, that means lacking it is more like missing out on a bonus than a flaw.  The Retreat Cost of [CC] is similar; it isn’t chunky enough to be a serious obstacle, but it isn’t the advantage a lower Retreat Cost would be.

Empoleon V has the Ability “Emperor’s Eyes”, and it only works while Empoleon V is Active.  While Emperer’s Eyes is working, your opponent’s Basics have no Abilities except for Pokémon with a Rule Box.  So an Active Empoleon V stops relatively common plays like Galarian Zigzagoon (Sword & Shield 117/202; Shining Fates SV078/SV122) and Jirachi (SM – Team Up 99/181; SM – Black Star Promos SM161), but does not stop Crobat V, Dedenne-GX, or Tapu Koko {*}.  Out of recent and semi-recent gimmicks, I think only Amazing Rares, Pokémon with Battle Styles, or ones that are Ultra Beasts lack Rule Boxes.  Even that isn’t guaranteed, as they’ll have them if they are also Pokémon-GX, Pokémon V, etc.

One-sided Ability-lock is good.  Only working against Basics is still good.  Mostly only working against baseline Basics is really restricted.  Emperor’s Eyes is still good, but far from great.  You’re denying your opponent some of their supporting Pokémon, but missing most of the big names.  Empoleon V’s attack is “Swirling Slice”, which lets Empoleon V attack and do 130 damage, but it also has to move an Energy from itself to one of your Benched Pokémon.  The only way to avoid Energy being moved is if you can find a combo that lets Empoleon V (or something copying Swirling Slice) attack without any Energy being attached, or (much more likely) attacking without a Bench. 

However, having to move Energy off of Empoleon V after it attacks can sometimes be beneficial; if Empoleon V is going to be KO’d, or just too injured to risk leaving in the Active position, this lets you prep your next attacker.  130 damage for three is decent, so long as you have some Energy acceleration, and Rapid Strike Energy is one such option.  You’ll need another form of Energy acceleration, or just be able to attach a single Energy to Empoleon V and pass a turn, but this readies Swirling Slice a turn early and you can then pass Rapid Strike Energy onto your next attacker.  130 per turn at best 3HKOs Pokémon VMAX, but it will one-shot smaller targets, and 2HKO most things that are in between.

Empoleon V seems a little too niche to be the star of its own deck, unless the metagame shifts radically.  Looking at what has been doing well, in addition to what is expected to do well:
  • Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks may be in trouble from some of the new Fighting types; unless Empoleon V partners with them, however, few to none of its Abilities are blocked by Emperor’s Eyes, while several Pokémon score OHKO’s they normally wouldn’t through Empoleon’s Weakness.
  • Blacephalon (SM – Unbroken Bonds 32/214) decks do not like Empoleon V… unless they start adding in Victini VMAX or another sufficiently durable attacker.  Without that, their Blacephalon are easy OHKOs and their Jirachi can’t help with setting up.  Victini VMAX would likely flip the matchup, however.
  • Zacian V decks should be mostly fine as well; nothing Empoleon V does really bothers them, while Zacian V can OHKO Empoleon V even without any damage buffs.  No Bronzor (SM – Team Up 100/181) if the deck starts using Bronzong (SW – Battle Styles 102/163; SW – Black Star Promos SWSH091), but that only matters if Zacian V goes second, and then, just slows it down a turn.
  • Eternatus VMAX decks can’t utilize their Galarian Zigzagoon, but Eternatus VMAX’s Ability still works.  Which means its attack can reach OHKO levels against Empoleon V (seven [D] Pokémon in play), but Empoleon V needs three attacks to KO Eternatus VMAX back.
  • Centiskroch VMAX decks include some variants that rely on Jirachi, and those may be in trouble.  Centiskorch V and most other Fire Types the deck has run in the past can be OHKO’d by Empoleon V, but Centiskorch VMAX itself requires a 2HKO.  Centiskorch VMAX still needs to evolve, and doesn’t hit hard enough on just a manual Energy attachment plus Wielder to OHKO Empoleon V.
  • Inteleon VMAX decks don’t have anything key that Emperor’s Eyes shuts down, and while it isn’t OHKOing Empoleon V, Empoleon V has to 3HKO it and won’t like having its one remaining Energy bounced to hand, or whatever it is moving Energy to on the Bench hit with Bench damage.
  • Mewtwo & Mew-GX variants are going to depend on their partners, but I don’t recall them typically relying on non-Rule Box Basics with Abilities, so I doubt Empoleon V will be much of a threat to it.
  • I mentioned Victini VMAX earlier.  It is a new, surprisingly strong attacker from SW – Battle Styles, and even though it is [W] Weak, Empoleon V can only 2HKO it while Victini VMAX can OHKO Empoleon V for just [RC].  In its own deck or supporting something else, and Victini VMAX can be a problem!
  • Decidueye (SW – Darkness Ablaze 013/189; SW – Black Star Promos SWSH035; Shining Fates 008/072, SV003/122) decks aren’t going to mind Empoleon V, as it cannot touch them and its Ability doesn’t affect Dedicueye directly.  If it is a version supported by Galarian Obstagoon (Sword & Shield 119/202, SW – Vivid Voltage 198/185; SW – Black Star Promos SWSH059; Shining Fates SV080/122) it will miss being able to spam Galarian Zigzagoon, but Galarian Obstagoon itself will still function, and can also stall while attacking Empoleon V.
  • A Cramorant VMAX deck backed by Porygon-Z (SM – Unbroken Bonds 157/214) recently did well in a Taiwanese tournament.  If this becomes a new trend, you have another deck where Emperor’s Eyes doesn’t shut down anything important, but which can easily outpace Empoleon V in damage output, and in this case, which can also target the opponent’s Bench if that would be more beneficial.
  • Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX decks are expected to be a thing, and if that happens, the same pattern occurs; it can outpace Empoleon V in damage, it can attack around Empoleon V, and nothing too vital gets shut down by Emperor’s Eyes.
  • Single Strike Urshifu VMAX decks are less anticipated their their counterpart, but are still likely to match up favorable against Empoleon V, and for similar reasons as with Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX, but without the capacity to hit the Bench.
  • Ball Juggling decks or Mad Party decks aren’t expected to be a big deal, but they’re pretty much the exact kind of deck Empoleon V crushes.
So… most current or expected competitive decks are only mildly inconvenienced by Empoleon V, and some even have very favorable match-ups against it.  Does that mean all hope is lost?
Nope.  Empoleon V can be used to support something else, it can still prove handy.  If you have a Rapid Strike Deck, it is all about whether you can spare a slot for Empoleon V in your deck and maybe an Air Balloon or similar card.  With a little luck, you can toss Empoleon V up front on your first turn (maybe even open with it), against decks that do rely on cards like Jirachi for early game setup.  If you can also spare a Rapid Strike Energy, it can be a decent attacker against smaller targets and/or the Water Weak.
In Expanded, Empoleon V can utilize strong Water support while shutting down many more key Basics, like Exeggcute (BW – Plasma Freeze 4/116; BW – Plasma Blast 102/101) but it still isn’t a great attacker and it faces competition.  Alolan Muk (Sun & Moon 58/149) has an Ability that stops all Abilities on Basic Pokémon.  Garbodor (BW – Dragons Exalted 54/124; BW – Plasma Freeze 119/116; BW – Legendary Treasures 68/113) or Garbodor (XY – BREAKpoint 57/122) has an Ability that stops all other Abilities in play.  Silent Lab is a Stadium that also stops the Abilities on all Basics.  Wobbuffet (XY – Phantom Forces 36/199; Generations RC11/RC32) has an Ability that, while Active, all Abilities are ignored except those on [P] Pokémon.  None of them do exactly what Empoleon V does, but have the “anti- Ability” market pretty well covered.
  • Standard: 3/5
  • Expanded: 3/5
Empoleon V isn’t a great card or a general use card, but I think it is a good card when you remember its niche.  It seems like an easy enough inclusion for Rapid Strike Decks, and it might fall more into the Wobbuffet camp where it is used for its Active-only Ability early game, but then move it out of the way once you set up.  Maybe toss it back up in front mid-game or late-game should the need arise.  It didn’t make my own list, but I considered it.

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