– Gym Heroes
January 2, 2020
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Welcome to Throwback Thursday, the first one we’ve had in a little while. Though we’re also cheating a bit, as we’re talking about an old card – Erika (Gym Challenge 16/132, 100/132) – with a modern reprint – Erika (SM Cosmic Eclipse 191/236). The original version of Erika officially released August 14, 2000, while the new one just officially released November 1, 2019. There’s been a major change with this new version of Erika but it isn’t with the card’s effect. The original Erika released two years before the introduction of the Supporter mechanic, as a Trainer. Specifically, at the time we would have referred to her as a “normal” Trainer if we needed to draw a distinction between that and Stadium cards, or some other (now abandoned) mechanics. Normal Trainers were played the same as Items are now, which means you could play as multiple copies of Erika during your turn. Why is that so important?
Both cards have the same effect, though the wording is clearly different: each player may draw up to three cards, and the person who used Erika draws first (if they are drawing any at all). The wording does allow a player to draw 0, 1, 2, or 3 cards, so neither player is going to deck out from Erika (barring player error). There are some effects that may reward you for getting your opponent’s hand to a particular size (or just inflating it), but unless you surprise your opponent, they won’t be drawing off of Erika unless it helps them. Depending on your deck and your hand, you may be able to mitigate your opponent drawing, such as by following up with a Reset Stamp, but that just turns Erika into a barely better Hau… except it is a two card combo, so still not actually better.
Back in the day, though, Erika was amazing! I have to confess, though, I didn’t appreciate her the way I ought to have back in the day. I didn’t know about the Trapper combo (Imposter Oak’s Revenge => Rocket’s Sneak Attack => The Rocket’s Trap). With just a little luck, this combo would completely strip an opponent of their hand… and with the typical builds of decks at the time, if your first attempt didn’t quite work, trying again was relatively easy. Getting back to Erika, just Imposter Oak’s Revenge; Imposter Oak’s Revenge is just a Red Card that requires you discard a card from your own hand to use it. Unless your opponent already had less than four cards in hand when you began, or got really lucky from the shuffle-and-draw, this simple trick (that could lead to the full Trapper combo) completely mitigated Erika’s drawback. You still ran Professor Oak, but you had an alternative that didn’t wreck your own hand in the process, but was better than ye olde Bill.
The CotD crew first reviewed Erika back in 2002, before I was part of it. You can read their take on classic Erika here. Vince, aroramage, and myself have reviewed Erika before, though, for a previous Throwback Thursday about a year ago. We didn’t know she was getting a re-release at the time! I expect our predictions will remain true; Erika as a Supporter just isn’t worth playing. She a little too nice, since your opponent has the option of not drawing. The exception is when you’re playing in the Limited Format; just about any draw power is worthwhile here, even if it also helps your opponent.
Oddly enough, I am somewhat happy that Erika received this reprint. Why? Besides nostalgia, part of me wants to see TPCi reclaim the Unlimited Format. If they want it to be a place where no card is banned, that means errata and/or reprints (Alternate A for obsolete mechanics) to see if that can tame the biggest trouble makers… and sometimes that taming comes from denying them the reliably draw/search/recycling that enabled the most abusive of combos. Of course, actual Unlimited Format players may not like this, and they might be right. Good thing it is a pipe dream on my part.
Today’s card is not just a Throwback, but also a reprint, though with major text change so that you can only use the latest effect and not the original one. Erika (Gym Heroes 16/132, 100/132, SM Cosmic Eclipse 191/236). This card was formerly a “Trainer” card at the time where Supporters did not exist at the time, but stadiums did. As such you were previously able to play 4 Erika in one turn. Now, as a Supporter card, you can only play her once per turn while also giving up the opportunity to use your other Supporters due to the restriction. This may not be as concerning if she was a new card, but if anyone is a veteran player for over two decades, you’ll know how much it hurts to see certain cards being reprinted while also getting a major errata, and that also affects her viability in Unlimited as well.
Erika allows both players to draw up to 3 cards. The order of which it does should not matter because both players are getting up to three cards regardless. When it comes to draw power, she is no better than Cheren, Tierno, Hau, or even Hop, as they also draws 3 cards, but with no additional effect, and these quadrates didn’t see any competitive play. Having your opponent drawing three cards is terrible most of the time, which makes it worse than those other four baseline Supporters, as giving your opponent cards allows them to do even more things against you. However, Reset Stamp does alleviate the situation as it could bring their opponent’s hand size to a low amount.
I can’t see Erika being played competitively at all as the wording renders some strategies futile. Granbull decks won’t need to draw an extra card, and if the opponent is on the verge of decking out, they don’t have to draw a card. The only time she’ll see play is in the Limited Format, and prereleases are already over with.
When we recently chimed on December 6, 2018, we had no idea that Erika would be eventually reprinted. It wasn’t until six months later – around June of 2019 – that PokeBeach revealed another print of Erika as a Japanese promo card that would eventually be released in an expansion, that is, Cosmic Eclipse. As such, whatever thoughts we previously had is completely invalidated due to being reprinted with a major text change.
NOTE: I actually misread the card thinking both players would have to draw 3 cards and ignoring the “up to 3”. Those exceptions that I’ve mentioned are completely VOID, and I already deleted them. Erika now has no competitive play in this case.
Actually, this came up pretty recently, because today’s card got reprinted in Cosmic Eclipse! Go figure.
Erika is a Supporter these days though, when it used to be just a regular Trainer card before they made the distinction between Items and Supporters and such. Her effect’s pretty simple – both players draw 3 cards, though you get to draw first. As far as I’m aware, there’s nothing notable about this distinction. There may be some effects that matter with you drawing first, but I can’t think of anything in particular like that.
The symmetrical effect of this card is probably its biggest drawback too. Erika’s very generous, and if it mattered to give your opponent more cards in their hand, then Erika could fit right in. Oddly enough, this isn’t a Grass-Type thing as much as it is more of a Psychic-Type thing, and even then I can’t think of many competitive cards that would work with Erika on this. It’s the sort of effect that feels like it works against the player more than with them.
Even looking back at the time of its original release in Gym Heroes, Erika didn’t have any synergy with her Pokemon, the cards you would expect to synergize with. But to be fair, that was a different time in the lifespan of the game. These days, there are many better options for draw power, and sadly that puts Erika near the bottom of the bin in terms of competitive viability.
Standard: 1/5 (compared to other Supporters, Erika doesn’t do much for you)
Expanded: 1/5 (there are just too many better Supporters here)
Limited: 4/5 (the draw power is still really useful here because of Tag Team Supporters, even if it does help your opponent out too)
Arora Notealus: The most clear-cut way to examine a card like Erika is to think of it this way: for the price of your Supporter for the turn, you get to draw 3 cards, and then you give your opponent 3 cards. Sure, the wording on the card is different than that, but you’re essentially going -1 in terms of card advantage, since you gain +3 from Erika drawing cards, then get -3 from your opponent drawing cards before going -1 for losing Erika. That’s just simple numbers at that point, and it becomes clear why Erika seems objectively worse than say something like even Hau. Although maybe you could use her in a mill strategy…
Next Time: Cryogonal wasn’t the only surprise at the Regionals…
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