– Darkness Ablaze
August 19, 2020
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Our pick for the 10th-best card of this set is Familiar Bell (SSH – Darkness Ablaze 161/189). This Trainer-Item lets you search your deck for a Pokémon with the same name as a Pokémon in your discard pile. As usual, show the searched-out card to your opponent, add it to your hand, and finish things by shuffling your deck. This is search that can snag any Pokémon, regardless of its Stage or having a specialty mechanic attached to it… except for Pokémon with a one-per-deck cap like Prism Star Pokémon, Pokémon [Star], etc. You are not restricted to searching for the exact same card. For example, a copy of Oranguru (Sword & Shield 148) let’s you grab any Oranguru card from your deck, not just further copies of itself.
The only real use I’m seeing for this card right now is in Mad Party decks, but it will take some explaining as to “why”. If you have no Pokémon in your discard pile, you can’t even use Familiar Bell to peak at the contents of your current deck, then shuffle. I mentioned how getting basic Energy into the discard pile wasn’t exactly difficult when we reviewed Turbo Patch a few days ago, but there are two huge differences:
If you have one of the Pokémon you wish to search in your discard pile, that means you have at most three more left in your deck; even though you’re not restricted to the exact same Pokémon, the 4 Copy Rule is (usually) going to still apply.
Early game, if you want Familiar Bell to fetch something from your deck, you’ve got to have already discarded a copy of it. That is a bit easier Turn 2 than Turn 1; while you can use things like Dedenne-GX and Quick Ball on either player’s first turn, Turn 2 (Player 2’s first turn) is when something like Professor’s Research becomes an option. Mid-to-late game, Familiar Bell should have a wider selection of targets, even without having made much of an effort to set it up… but this must be weighed against what is most likely your diminishing deck. Put another way, the more Pokémon in your discard pile, the fewer there could be left in your deck, and the more effective simply trying to draw into them becomes.
Yes, competition; to be fair, draw power always competes with search, and what I just said applies to all search when used late in the game, but let us look at just the other Trainer-Items in the Standard Format. You have Quick Ball for searching out Basics, though it requires a discard from your hand to use. Evolution Incense can only search out Evolutions, but that is its only caveat. Pokémon Communication to search out any Pokémon, but you have to have another Pokémon in hand you can shuffle into your deck, first. The Expanded Format adds the ubiquitous Ultra Ball, and both Formats contain more specialized search that also competes with Familiar Bell. There is also the odd situation with cards such as Battle Compressor; it makes for an obvious combo with Familiar Bell… but also competition in the decks most likely to include it.
Familiar Bell can always be used to supplement another form of search… and that is probably its primary use. I just don’t see it being the de facto search card for any deck… even Mad Party. Night March might consider it as well (in Expanded), as both of these decks strive to get a lot of Pokémon into their discard pile, and even ones they may prefer not to discard will end up there anyway. Familiar Bell can’t snag their true TecH, but the main focus of Night Marchers or Mad Partiers are fair game, and snagging them with Familiar Bell reduces the load on other search. I’m still not sold on Mad Party, and Night March ain’t what it once was, so even if Familiar Bell becomes a staple in such decks, that isn’t enough to spike it’ scores.
Even in the Limited Format, where just about any search is a must-run, this one might not be. Again, you can’t use it to see your deck, an important step in working out your Prizes, and a little more important since you probably didn’t have time to memorize your freshly built Limited Format deck. You’ll have an even harder time getting Pokémon in your discard pile, and you’re likely to have fewer copies of those Pokémon, but search is search. If you’re not running a Mulligan deck, or your Pokémon lines aren’t all singles, include Familiar Bell. However, you also may have no better search, you probably have “spare room” in your deck, and the 4 Copy Rules does not apply in the Limited Format. So, if you pulled 5+ copies of even some half-decent Pokémon, you might get a rather potent combo.
Familiar Bell was our 10th-place pick, but it didn’t make my top 15. I’m the only one who left it off his own list, though, and it is not like it barely made the others’ lists. I don’t think it is a bad card, but I think it may be a little too specialized. It may not be fair, but I see this card and wish it could grab Pokémon from the deck or discard pile, or even was just a Pokémon recycling effect a la Rescue Stretcher. A typo in an email made me realize it would be just a tad better if it was Familiar Ball instead of Bell, not that Apricorn Maker is a great card, either.
Clocking in as the 10th best card is a search card that doesn’t resemble a Poké Ball: Familiar Bell. It lets you search a Pokémon with the same name as a Pokémon in your discard pile. So, that means that if, for example, Zacian is in your discard pile, then you can only fetch only Zacian. If there are multiple Pokémon involved such as Dedenne, Bunnelby, and Polteageist in your discard pile, then you get to fetch one of the three from your deck.
In terms of usability, this can be useful if you ran 4 of the same Pokémon, but even then you have to discard at least one of the same Pokémon from either your hand, deck, or in play. Otherwise, you won’t be able to fetch a particular Pokémon. On the other hand, Familiar Bell won’t be of much use if your deck uses one-of Pokémon as TecH.
I recall having this card on my personal list, but that’s probably because it is another decent search card when there’s not much competition. Pokémon Communication fetches you any Pokémon, but at the cost of another Pokémon from your hand; Quick Ball fetches you Basic Pokemon, but at the cost of a card from your hand.
For Expanded, Familiar Bell can be used a bit easily due to Battle Compressor discarding three cards to your liking so that you can definitely find what you need. This could be incredibly useful for Night March or Mad Party decks since not only using those Mad Party as fodder for damage output, Familiar Bell can fetch for Joltik or Bunnelby/Dedenne.
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