Houndoom – Battle Styles

Date Reviewed:
March 29, 2021

Ratings Summary:
Standard: 3.00
Expanded: 3.00

Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.

Reviews Below:

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While Single Strike Energy (SW – Battle Styles 141/163, 183/163) is our actual 5th-Place finisher, there are two very important cards that combo with it.  So important are the combos that to seriously review Single Strike Energy essentially requires reviewing these two additional cards… so we may as well do exactly that.  As such, Houndoom (SW – Battle Styles 096/163, 179/163; SW – Black Star Promos SWSH090) is another bonus review and Honorable Mention.  The other Honorable Mention is Urn of Vitality (SW – Battle Styles 139/163), and it is important to Houndoom’s usage as well.

Houndoom is a baseline Pokémon with a Battle Style.  That may sound like a bit of a contradiction, but Battle Styles are a mechanic that operates independently of most others, like being a Pokémon V.  You can learn more about Battle Styles here; the article isn’t exhaustive, but it explains the fundamentals of Battle Styles, then gives a quick run through of all Rapid Strike and Single Strike Pokémon.  Houndoom becomes a bit bitter than it otherwise would be from accessing Single Strike support.  Houndoom is a Darkness type, and they have some time-tested options in Expanded, but their Standard support seems to be more “miss” than “hit”.  It also hasn’t been overly useful for exploiting Weakness, though that may change if we see more of the newer Psychic types increase in usage post-Battle Styles.

Houndoom is a Stage 1 Pokémon; you’ll need to run Houndour so you can field Houndoom.  If being compatible with Single Strike support matters, Houndour (SW – Battle Styles 095/163) is your only option.  130 HP is decent for a Stage 1.  It is just enough to survive smaller attackers, but mid-range (and higher) damaging attacks will drop Houndoom in one shot.  [G] Weakness isn’t too bad, as there is only a tiny bit in the competitive metagame.  No Resistance is the worst, but its presence doesn’t make a huge difference and most Pokémon have no Resistance.  A Retreat Cost of [CC] is neither high nor low.

Houndoom has one Ability and one attack.  We’re covering the attack first because it is filler, and once I start on the Ability, I’m not going to want to come back to it.  “Darkness Fang” costs [DC] and does 50 damage.  This is overpriced or underpowered, but at least it isn’t completely unreasonable and still deals damage.  You shouldn’t be using it all that often, and the Ability does make it a bit better.  “Single Strike Roar” is a once-during-your-turn Ability, per instance of it you have in play.  It lets you search your deck for a Single Strike Energy and then attach it to one of your Single Strike Pokémon  Afterward, you shuffle your deck and then place two damage counters on the Pokémon that received the Energy.

By its nature, Energy acceleration tends to let you hit harder, as it lets you ready a more expensive attack in less time.  Placing two damage counters on the recipient of the Energy is a drawback that can lead that Pokémon being KO’d more quickly, or it might not matter at all, or it might be used to setup for an effect.  Working with just Single Strike Energy and Single Strike Pokémon is limiting, but understandable.  Single Strike Energy not only counts as both [D] and [F] while attached, but increases the damage that Pokémon to your opponent’s Active by 20.  So with two Single Strike Energy, you could use an attack with a cost of [CC], [DC], [DD], [FC], [FD], or [FF] and do 40 more damage.  Single Strike Energy is our 5th-Place pick for a reason!

The obvious issue is that you may only run four copies of Single Strike Energy.  So, even if none are Prized, prematurely discarded, or in your hand, does that mean you may only use Single Strike Roar four times?  That is where our other Honorable Mention enters the discussion: Urn of Vitality (SW – Battle Styles 139/163).  This Trainer-Item has its own review, so I won’t go into a massive amount of detail, but lets you shuffle up to two copies of Single Strike Energy from your discard pile to your deck.  Without getting into complicated combos, this means you still could recycle up to eight total copies of Single Strike Energy from your discard pile, and that means you could end up using Single Strike Roar up to 12 times!

Probably not on the same Pokémon, though, or on the same turn.  If you just want a quick boost, a 1-1 line of Houndour and Houndoom is plausible.  You’ll probably want at least two Single Strike Energy in your deck as well, plus something else to do the attacking.  Even with the damage and speed boost, Darkness Fang ain’t worth it.  If you have an attacker that heavily relies on the boost, you’ll want at least a 2-2 line, with the understanding you’re only aiming at having one Houndoom in play at a time.  If you want more, run a 3-3 or 4-4 line.  You’ll also probably want one to four copies of Urn of Vitality, so this combo can vary massively: from as few as four cards (1-1 line and two Single Strike Energy) to 16 cards (max out everything)!

Single Strike Mustard is one you should probably not run just for Houndoom.  It is a Trainer-Supporter that lets you Bench a Single Strike Pokémon from your deck directly to your Bench and draw five cards, however, you cannot play Single Strike Mustard unless it is your last card in hand.  Thanks to similar cards such as Archie’s Ace in the Hole and Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick, which released at a time when it was much easier to do the prep work, we know this is better reserved for a Stage 2, or maybe a VMAX.  Ditto {*} is still an option in Expanded, however; it can still use its Ability to evolve into Houndoom, but unless you already have a four Houndour or have another Stage 1 you want to run alongside Houndoom, it is unnecessary


  • Standard: 3/5
  • Expanded: 3/5

Houndoom is meant for Single Strike decks, and those with high enough Energy requirements that it is worth running a Stage 1 for a bit of Energy acceleration.  The damage counters placed by Single Strike Roar are a minor hindrance most of the time, but your mileage may vary.  The full combo can eat up a lot of space in your deck, and if you don’t need the acceleration, you can just run Single Strike Energy on its own.  I worry a bit about the Ability counters in Expanded, but not enough to lower the score.  If we had ranked Houndoom separate from Single Strike Energy, it still may have made my top 15, but it was worth having to squeeze a bonus review to cover it as an Honorable Mention.

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