Gengar – Chilling Reigns
June 18, 2021
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
At last, it is time for another countdown! If this is your first time reading one of these, you can get a better idea of how it works here. The short version is the reviewers submit individual lists and we use those to make the site list. Reprints are only allowed if “significant”, which usually means returning something to Standard or even Expanded Format legality.
15th-Place goes to Gengar (SW – Chilling Reign 057/198). Gengar does not have a Rule Box on it, or anything unusual added to its name. It is a [P] type, which might be handy for type-matching in Standard and should be useful due to some vintage support (Dimension Valley, Mysterious Treasure) in Expanded. Gengar is a Stage 2, so its going to take some time and effort for it to hit the field. An investment that makes the 130 HP poor; you can survive small attacks, but most mid-tier (and higher) easily one-shot Gengar. [D] Weakness means Darkness types have an even easier time, while -30 [F] Resistance does give you a better chance against them. The Retreat Cost of [C] is low and easy to pay.
Gengar has one Ability, and knows one attack. “Last Gift” only activates if Gengar (literally “this Pokémon”) is KO’d by damage from an attack from one of your opponent’s Pokémon. When this happens, you search your deck for up to cards and add them to your hand. The Chilling Reign FAQ makes it clear that this is not an optional effect. Your opponent can avoid triggering Last Gift if they score a KO through anything other than damage from an attack, and you cannot trigger Last Gift even if one of your own attacks damages and KO’s your Gengar. Last Gift works whether Gengar was your Active or on your Bench when it was KO’d, and getting any two cards from your deck is powerful. Another benefit is the timing; this should be happening during the end of your opponent’s turn, so they shouldn’t be able to disrupt your hand before you can use what you searched.
Up next is Gengar’s “Pain Burst” attack. Priced at [CCC], Pain Burst does 10 damage plus another 40 for each damage counter on your opponent’s Active. You get a decent return if your opponent’s Active has at least two damage counters on it (110 damage from Pain Burst), but you really want four or five so you can OHKO most Basic Pokémon V. The Energy cost can be steep, but Triple Acceleration Energy (while it remains legal) can cover it with a single attachment… and Gengar’s frailty means you probably don’t have to worry much about the self-discarding clause. Speaking of which, when Gengar gets OHKO’d, you could search for another Triple Acceleration, assuming you have any left in your deck and don’t need two other cards more. Another likely search candidate would be Rare Candy; Items aren’t impossible to search, but they aren’t as easy as Pokémon.
The main mystery to me is how you get the necessary damage counters on your opponent’s Active. You could partner Gengar with another attacker, but a 2HKO kind of missed the point. A spread attacker is a bit better; technically a multi-turn KO but it isn’t quite a 2HKO when one attack sets up for multiple later KOs. While Mew (SM – Unbroken Bonds 76/214; SM – Black Star Promos SM215) remains legal, you’ll need a good spread attacker that places damage counters, and I’m not sure we have one of those right now. Certain matchups would make it more challenging as well; Metal Goggles for Metal types, as an example. None of these are deal breakers but remember Gengar is a Stage 2. There are some Pokémon that are quite good at placing damage counters on your opponent’s Pokémon…
…but either they don’t place enough, they’re Evolutions, or both. I just don’t know if there’s enough room for it all to fit in a single deck. Things might be better in Expanded, where you have more options, but there are also more counters to those options, and to Gengar itself. Gengar caught my eye, and I may have sold it short, but I don’t think it quite has what it takes.
- Standard: 2/5
- Expanded: 2/5
At last, we start the countdown of the top 15 cards of Sword & Shield Chilling Reign, starting with Gengar! A Stage 2 Psychic type with 130 HP, Darkness weakness, Fighting resistance, and a retreat cost of C, it has an ability and an attack. The Last Gift ability states that if this Pokémon was Knocked Out by damage from your opponent’s Pokemon, you can search your deck for two cards and put them onto your hand. Pain Burst costs three energy for ten damage, plus forty more for each damage counter on your opponent’s Active Pokemon.
To make the most of Gengar’s Pain Burst attack, you need something that can – ideally – place damage counters without using up your attack. If you go by the slowest approach of repeatedly using Pain Burst against a fresh Pokémon, it’ll do just 10 damage, then 50 next turn, then 210 damage on the next turn after that, and then 850 damage on your fourth use. There are other cards which can help you place damage counters. Flapple from Rebel Clash has an ability that lets you put 2 damage counters on 1 of your opponent’s Pokemon, but it shuffles itself back into your deck. However, the new baseline Inteleon card from that same set functions exactly like Decidueye-GX’s Feather Arrow, putting 2 damage counters on one of your opponent’s Pokemon without any drawbacks. Ideally, if you can get at least 7 damage counters on any of your opponent’s Pokemon, Pain Burst will clean up the rest of its remaining HP, and it’s an energy attachment away from using it (via Triple Acceleration Energy). Mega Alakazam-EX had a similar attack, but it only does 10 plus 30 more for each damage counters on your opponent’s Active Pokemon, and it barely made XY Fates Collide’s countdown, being the 10th best card of the set because it had a combo piece of Alakazam-EX’s ability.
But Gengar doesn’t have just a “better” Zen Force attack; it also has the Last Gift ability, which can help you set up combos by getting you any two cards. Since it doesn’t specifically state that it has to be in the Active to trigger the ability, even being KOed on the Bench still activates that ability. It wouldn’t help if it was KOed by an effect that places damage counters or special conditions in between turns, but most of the time, your Pokémon gets KOed by direct damage. Overall, Gengar’s ability reduces the reliance of the other Inteleon – from Sword & Shield – from using Shady Dealings to fetch for 2 trainer cards, and focuses more on the new Inteleon.
Standard: 3 (will drop to 2 in a few months)
Gengar has some potential, but I don’t know if rogue decks such as Gengar/Inteleon would ever be a thing, but it seems like a logical pair to perform such a task, despite the burden of having two different stage 2s in a deck, though that didn’t stop Empoleon/Dusknoir decks in the Legacy format from performing well there (the closest thing to a rogue deck next to The Truth). Gengar will soon take a hit when Triple Acceleration Energy leaves the format. On my personal list, it was my 10th pick (I only had ten cards on my list).
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