Our 15th-Place Pick is Gengar VMAX (SW – Fusion Strike 157/264, 271/264)! “VMAX” is both a kind of Rule Box Pokémon, a kind of Pokémon V, and a Stage of Evolution. It lacks an Ability, so being a Rule Box Pokémon isn’t going to be a problem (barring unknown future releases). Being a Pokémon V means exclusion from certain beneficial card effects and inclusion in some detrimental ones. There are also some counters specific to Pokémon VMAX, though they also get a few pieces of their own support as well. Of course, there’s also the obvious: Pokémon VMAX are worth three Prizes when KO’d, instead of just one or two. It does come with a potential benefit; Gengar VMAX evolves directly from Gengar V, a Basic. Baseline Gengar cards are Stage 2 Pokémon, requiring a larger investment of time, cards, or both. Gengar VMAX is specifically a Dynamax form, but while that is on the card, I don’t know of any effects or game mechanics that care about this trait.
Gengar VMAX is a Darkness type, reflecting its Poison half from the video games. This grants it access to Hiding [D] Energy, and means it plays nicely with Eternatus VMAX’s “Eternal Zone” Ability; not huge benefits, but appreciated. It should be valuable for exploiting Weakness; in the SW-series, most Psychic types not based on VG Fairy types are [D] Weak. Expanded adds some older Darkness support, some obsolete but some still quite good. It also adds [D] Resistance in the form of the TCG Fairy type that appeared during the XY and SM-eras. Justified Gloves is a Tool that increases the damage done to Darkness types by 30; I don’t know yet if it is as useless as most older anti-Darkness effects, or if this one might become a winner in the right deck. Gengar VMAX is a Single Strike Pokémon, so it has access to multiple effects to increase its damage output and one of them, Houndoom (SW – Battle Styles 096/163, 179/163; SW – Black Star Promos SWSH090) and Single Strike Energy also provide a form of Energy acceleration.
Gengar VMAX has 320 HP. This is difficult to OHKO, but not impossible. As far as Pokémon VMAX go, this is a middle-of-the-road value. Most of the time, Gengar VMAX ought to be able to soak a hit, but be wary of the hardest hitters, as well as Fighting types. Gengar VMAX has [F] Weakness and that is very bad right now. The good news is something like Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX needs a little or a lot of help (depending on the attack) to score a OHKO. The bad news is that not only does such help exist, but there are also Pokémon like Galarian Zapdos V. It can score a OHKO with just [F] Energy attached if the player running Gengar VMAX has two more Pokémon V in play alongside Gengar VMAX. The lack of Resistance is the worst, but also normal, so it is more a missed opportunity than a defect. The Retreat Cost of [CCC] means Hiding [D] Energy may be a requirement and not just an option; you really don’t want to have to discard three Energy to manually retreat.
Gengar VMAX knows two attacks. The first is “Fear and Panic”, priced at [DD] and doing 60 damage times the total number of Pokémon V and Pokémon-GX the opposing player has in play. The second attack is “G-Max Swallow Up”, costing [DDD] and doing 250 damage but with an effect that says Gengar VMAX cannot attack next turn. Fear and Panic seems to be a real winner. While it would be far better if it counted all Pokémon with a Rule Box, most such Pokémon in Standard are Pokémon V anyway. If your opponent has at least two Pokémon V in play, you’re doing decent damage. If they have for or more, you’re really in business! Your opponent can, of course, put fewer Pokémon V into play once they realize what is happening, but that means they’re denying themselves one (or more) resources they normally use, so that is still likely in your favor…
…especially as Gengar VMAX has a good back-up attack. Getting three Energy onto it won’t be easy, but the reward is a reliable 250 damage. Well, mostly reliable; the effect of G-Max Swallow Up resides only on the Gengar VMAX that used the attack. If you can switch to a different attacker, or move that same Gengar VMAX to the Bench and then back into the Active position, you still can attack. 250 isn’t enough to OHKO fellow Pokémon VMAX, but it will 2HKO anything based on just printed HP scores (defensive effects can ruin this). There is a silver lining here: targets that use an effect to reduce the damage they take and that have 250 or less HP can still be taken out with one attack if you use Phoebe.
Okay, so how about Gengar V? After all, we have to go through it if we want to reach Gengar VMAX. Currently, there’s only one version of it, Gengar V (SW – Fusion Strike 156/264). It is a Basic, Darkness type Pokémon V that is also a Single Strike Pokémon. It has 210 HP, [F] Weakness, no Resistance, and a Retreat Cost of [CC]. It knows the attacks “Dark Slumber” and “Pain Explosion”, the former priced at [DD] and the latter at [DDD]. Dark Slumber does 40 damage to your opponent’s Active and afflicts it with Sleep. Low on damage, and while Sleep can prevent an opponent’s Active from attacking or retreating, it also has a 50% change during each Pokémon Checkup of going away. That includes the one that occurs after you attack it with Dark Slumber but before your opponent’s turn begins. Pain Explosion does 190 damage to your opponent’s Active, while placing three damage counters on Gengar V itself. At least this is enough to OHKO an opponent’s Crobat V, and Single Strike Pokémon have enough damage bonuses to get that 190 into more useful territory but… yeah, Gengar V is for evolving into Gengar VMAX.
I haven’t been following the Japanese metagame lately, but Gengar VMAX was said to be quite good when it was first released. While almost all cards release in Japan days, weeks, or even months before they’re released in other territories, this time was a little different. Even adjusting for things like what set of ours is equivalent to what sets of theirs, Gengar VMAX released “later” over here. The wording of its first attack is a hint at this; it mentions Pokémon-GX because, when it was released in Japan, Pokémon-GX were still Standard-legal! Of course, even when something does release at the equivalent time outside of Japan as it does in Japan, the metagame can vary enough that it will perform differently.
I believe there is enough here for Gengar VMAX to still be a good, maybe even a great attacker in its own deck. Against an opponent with a full Bench and everything a Pokémon-GX or Pokémon V, just two Energy can pay for 360 damage! While that isn’t too likely, getting enough damage to OHKO an opposing, Basic Pokémon V seems well within reason. Especially as you can supplement the damage for either attack with Single Strike suppot. My main complaint is that this card either wasn’t designed before Pokémon with a Rule Box were being treated as a single group, or that it was but didn’t get that treatment. Probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference in Standard right now…
…but it would have helped prepare Gengar VMAX for the long term a bit better and would have made it just that much stronger in Expanded. Gengar VMAX has more options in terms of support in Expanded, like ye olde Dark Patch, but faces both more counters and more competition. I am going to risk lowballing Gengar VMAX, and award it a three-out-of-five in both Formats. If it had released sooner, it probably would have been a four-out-of-five, at least for Standard. On my list, Gengar VMAX was my 9th-Place pick, so 15th-Place seems a little low.
- Standard: 3/5
- Expanded: 3/5