– Sword & Shield
March 7, 2020
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
When you want to take a whiff at something, there’s one for you. Evolution Incense is an item card that lets you grab an Evolution Pokemon. Assuming your Evolving basic is already in play, then you can evolve right away. For decks using Evolution decks, you’ll need to use a couple of those. But if you’re using a Stage 2 deck, then you’ll still need Rare Candy as well! But sometimes it doesn’t have to be this way. One can fetch for Weezing with Blow Away Bomb ability so that you can use this as fodder when you play Roxie. Fetching Drizzile means you’re guaranteed to find a Trainer card to your liking. This completely outclasses and replace Professor Elm’s Training Method, though it isn’t Expanded legal in the first place, being last printed on HeartGold & SoulSilver.
Evolution Incense (Sword & Shield 163/202) is a Trainer-Item with an effect that has you search your deck for an Evolution, then add it to your hand (shuffling your deck afterward). Being a Trainer-Item is a good deal. There is no external limit on how many Items you can play during your turn, nor a universal cost to play them. Trainer-support is good right now in Standard, though anti-Item effects are also good in Expanded.
Ultra Ball lets you grab any Pokémon from your deck for a two-card discard cost. It may be Expanded-only, but it is still recent enough I think its pricing structure is valid. Quick Ball released alongside Evolution Incense; for a single-card discard cost, you can get any Basic from your deck. Evolution Incense lets you get a wider variety of Stages than Quick Ball, but Basics are foundational for nearly all Evolutions. It thus makes sense that we have no additional cost for searching with Evolution Incense.
Evolution Incense can snag anything in Standard or Expanded that is not a Basic or Restored Pokémon. Given that the Expanded Format has so many search options – including Ultra Ball – the fact that I found one deck out of the top 70 finishers at the Colinsville, Indiana Regional Championship running one Evolution Incense actually impresses me. When we stick to Standard-legal decks, however, Evolution Incense is seeing more play, but not a lot more. The Galarian Obstagoon deck that took 3rd-place at the Oceania International Championship ran two copies, while the one that won the SPE held in Puerto Rico ran a single Evolution Incense.
More Evolution decks are seeing play post-Sword & Shield in Standard, but very few are using Evolution Incense. Why? It just isn’t that strong of an effect when you get down to it. It once was: Professor Elm’s Training Method is a pre-Expanded Format Supporter with the same effect as Evolution Incense, and it did know some competitive success, but during times when the game was at least a bit slower and more Evolution focused. Now?
Now (and even the semi-recent past) Supporters like Trevor and Poké Kid, which are Ultra Ball without the discard cost, aren’t worth it. I think Evolution Incense is still a good card, but unless we see more decks built around Evolutions that you cannot search out using Cherish Ball or Mysterious Treasure or Pokémon Communication, Evolution Incense will be good but not great in Standard. Rotation and future releases (Skyla reprint confirmed for Japan) could help as well.
As for the Limited Format, Evolution Incense is still a good card. All decks should run it if they can, just because they let you look at your deck, giving you a chance to work out what you have Prized. Yeah, even for decks with only Basic Pokémon, and even in +39 builds! When you do have Evolutions, whether a few or many, Evolution Incense will be a great card.
Evolution Incense is a good but not great search option, at least at the moment. It’s value may drop (even in Standard) if current Evolution usage slips, or it could spike if more Evolution-focused decks see play (and they’re not better suited to something more specialized). It would have been our 21st-place pick had our countdown started high enough, and it only managed that high of a finish because I had it as my 11th-place pick in my top 20. Which made it the perfect candidate for a weekend review; too important not to cover in a timely manner, but not good enough to really warrant a weekday slot.
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