– Gym Heroes
December 6, 2018
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Erika from Gym Heroes is a trainer card that has an effect that lets both players draw three cards. Since she is not classified as a Supporter, she can be played as many times as you like. Back then, the draw power was good due to being a trainer card (there were no supporters at the time), and the drawback of your opponent drawing three cards can be circumvented with Imposter Professor Oak, which shuffles your opponent’s hand and draw seven cards. If she was made to be a Supporter with the same effect, it won’t see any play at all.
But that’s not the only way to use her. You can make that effect to be considered “broken”. With four itemfinder and four Erika, you can make your opponent draw 24 cards, which is a lot. But if you can get to the point where your opponent decks out on their next turn, you’ve just set yourself for victory. I was going to mention Recycle, but they’re not reliable enough to be considered using due to the coin flip and putting said card on top of your deck.
Speaking about a Supporter version of her, there is another Erika card that was made into a Supporter card from a future Japanese expansion: Erika’s Hospitality. This effect won’t work if you have more than six cards in your hand (including Erika’s Hospitality), but if you do have six or less cards in your hand, you get to draw a card for each Pokémon your opponent has in play, which can range from one to six (or nine if Sky Field is active and your opponent has a full bench).
Standard: N/A (Back in its day, it would be a 4/5)
For our previous Throwback Thursday, we’re going quite a ways back. Not all the way back, however, as we look at Erika (Gym Heroes 16/132, 100/132). This was the sixth set. released on August 14, 2000, in North America. It was preceded by Base Set, Jungle, Fossil, Base Set 2, and Team Rocket. Erika is a Trainer from a time when the only subclasses for Trainers were “normal”, Stadium, and things we no longer use like Rocket’s Secret Machine. Erika was a normal Trainer card, which means she functions the same way as modern-day Item cards: in fact, she’s been retroactively classified as an “Item card” for the purposes of Unlimited Format and Limited Format play! Her effect is that she lets you draw up to three cards, then your opponent allowed to draw up to three cards. The “up to” aspect is very important as it means Erika is not an effective mill card to use on your opponent if they’re paying attention or not desperate. Most of the time, you’ll want the full three but there are times when controlling your hand’s size or deck size is important, so the “up to” is nice for yourself. When first released, to my inexperienced but haughty eyes, Erika was just a worse Bill. Sure, she let you draw an extra card but your opponent drew three! I figured she’d be niche at best, right?
Wrong! Erika is a great example of how combos can make the card. Just one set earlier we’d received Imposter Oak’s Revenge (Team Rocket 76/82). No, I didn’t spell it wrong, Wizards of the Coat (the company handling the Pokémon TCG outside of Japan at the time) did. Imposter Oak’s Revenge is another normal Trainer, so once again, both then and now, it is played like it is an Item card. Imposter Oak’s Revenge requires you discard a card from your hand to activate it, then forces your opponent to shuffle their hand into their deck and draw a new hand of four cards. This meant you could use as many copies of Erika as you wanted on your turn BUT by following them all with a single Imposter Oak’s Revenge, leave your opponent with just four cards in hand. Which is exactly what the competent players did. Some would even go a step further, using Rocket’s Sneak Attack (Team Rocket 16/82, 72/82) The Rocket’s Trap (Gym Heroes 19/132). Though not guaranteed, there was a good chance these three could leave your opponent with a zero card hand! The cards all coexisted with classic powerful Trainer cards like Computer Search, Item Finder, and Professor Oak. At least until the first “Modified” Format went into effect e.g. the first set rotation happened and the Standard Format went from Base Set-On to Team Rocket-On.
Even then, the main difference was we’d received Cleffa (Neo Genesis 20/111) and it was pretty much a deck staple… and provided both a means of stalling your opponent (via the Baby Rule) while also rebuilding your hand (through its attack). As I personally didn’t have most of these cards at the time, was clearly not a competitive player, and the historical record is somewhat spotty, I can only state that I believe Erika remained competitively viable for her entire Standard Format run. Which isn’t to say she’s a bad card in the modern Unlimited Format. No, I haven’t suddenly started playing Unlimited again, so I could be mistaken… but unless there’s been a radical shift (and it has been over 10 years since I even dabbled in Unlimited), Erika is still a key card for some of the First Turn Win/Lock decks. Draw three cards, and finish up with either the above Trapper combo, a lock, or a flat-out win to make it so that your opponent’s hand doesn’t matter. Sealed Gym Hero booster packs are not easy to come by but I’ll point out the obvious anyway: draw power is even more coveted in the Limited Format, so even though you probably cannot punish your opponent for drawing, you definitely run any copies of Erika you pull.
Now for the truly hypothetical; what if Erika were re-released, making her Standard and Expanded legal? A TRUE reprint is clearly an almost certain impossibility because the powers-that-be want Item cards to actually feature “things” and Supporters to represent “people”. Ditching the name and art while retaining the exact same effect and status as an Item is also almost guaranteed to never happen. Never? Well, maybe after another decade or two of power creep. A Supporter reprint of Erika would be bad, I’m afraid; it isn’t like Hau (a simple draw three) or TV Reporter (draw three with a minor, sometimes beneficial cost) are seen as competitive cards. Even mill decks would be hardpressed to justify just drawing up to three in the vain hope the opposing player draws three as well. I’ll indulge my Create-A-Card tendencies just a bit longer, to point out that Erika, reprinted as a Supporter and with the “up to” portion of her draw effects excised might make for a good, competitive card in mill decks or as TecH against decks infamous for running themselves especially low on cards. It would also be fascinating to see if such a change could help clean-up the Unlimited Format, even a little.
Erika is a card I wish I’d used when I could, but by the time I realized I’d missed such an easy answer to enjoying a card that allowed both players to draw up to three cards without seriously helping my opponent, not only was she nearing rotation but I probably couldn’t afford a playset. She only ever released as a Rare and a Holographic Rare and for “reasons” by the time I was actually trying to get enough copies of her to use, she was on the chopping block, likely (then actually) cut from the Standard Format via set rotation.
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