– Darkness Ablaze
August 14, 2020
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Welcome to our countdown of the Top 15 Cards of Darkness Ablaze! The set officially releases today, so it is time to get cracking. Darkness Ablaze won’t become tournament legal until August 28, the same day the Standard Format rotates, so our Standard Format scores will be for the 2021 (TEU-On) Standard Format. The recently announced bans for the Standard Format go into effect on that day as well. So, what card just made our countdown? It is Hoopa (SSH – Darkness Ablaze 111/189)!
Hoopa is single-Prize Pokémon with no specialty mechanics. It’s a Darkness type, which is good timing: this whole set adds some new [D] type support. [D] Resistance is only an artifact on Fairy types, and anti-[D] effects are also old and rarely used. Hoopa is a Basic, which means it requires minimal space and time to hit the field, can function as your opening Basic, and enjoys a natural synergy with various mechanics. 120 HP is on the high end of low; Hoopa is a probable OHKO, but might survive from time to time. Probably not against Grass types, due to its [G] Weakness… and if the Decidueye (SSH – Darkness Ablaze 013/189; SSH – Black Star Promos SWSH035) hype is even half real, that could be a problem. No Resistance is the worst, but typical and unlikely to matter. The Retreat Cost of [CC] is low enough you can often pay it, but high enough you’d rather not.
Hoopa has only one attack, “Assault Gate”. It requires just [D] and does 90 damage except that isn’t always true; its effect text states that attack does nothing unless Hoopa (“this Pokémon”) moved from the Bench to the Active position during this turn. It also states that the attack doesn’t apply Weakness, which is probably the bigger drawback. There’s no promoting this and smacking a [D] Weak Pokémon for 180… but you still have a nice budget attacker for general Darkness decks.
Hoopa is basically the Darkness counterpart to Lightning’s Zapdos (SM – Team Up 40/181; SM – Black Star Promos SM159). It isn’t as good as Zapdos, or at least, isn’t as good as Zapdos was prior to rotation. Zapdos had access to Electropower, but the Darkness type doesn’t have an equivalent. I still believe this makes Hoopa a nice, solid, single-Prize attacker for some (many?) Darkness decks. This probably holds true in Expanded as well; while it faces more competition and counters, here it can rock a Muscle Band for an extra 20 damage, or Fighting Fury Belt for an extra 10 damage but also +40 HP. Unless you’re running a mulligan deck, make room for some Darkness Energy and any Hoopa you pull in the Limited Format.
Hoopa is a good, solid, single-Prize attacker. It isn’t strong enough for OHKO’s, and even 2HKO’s are unlikely on its own… but partners well with other cards that do swing hard enough to set up for the 2HKO. Just remember that Hoopa doesn’t do damage unless it moved from Bench to your Active spot during this turn. It can’t have happened during your opponent’s turn, or during the Pokémon Checkup. Hoopa was my personal 13th-place pick, but my bottom few picks were more or less equal in overall value.
20200820: Though it isn’t enough to affect the final score, I did correct the line about Grass Weakness; I actually forgot about Decidueye!
Hoopa brings similarities from older cards, specifically from Zapdos from SM Team Up. It has an attack called Assault Gate, which costs a single Dark energy for no damage, but if you moved Hoopa from the Bench to the Active Spot, then it does 90 damage. This is 10 more than Zapdos, which did 10+70. But because of Zapdos’s typing, it can benefit from Electropower, which boosts damage output; Hoopa doesn’t have any of that. There’s also the issue in Standard that there’s not many cards that can help you consistently make you switch your Pokemon AND utilize manual retreat. There is some in Expanded, mostly Float Stone and Keldeo-EX/Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX, and with those cards, you have a way to consistently do that and keep attacking for 90 damage.
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