– Champion’s Path
September 28, 2020
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
For those skipping around in our reviews, welcome to our 9th-Place pick! This countdown is a bit different than normal; mixed in with the actual top 10 are cards related to the actual picks, as well as some honorable mentions. Incineroar V (SM – Champion’s Path 008/073) is a Fire type; this is fantastic for attacking Grass types and Metal types, as most are Fire Weak. The former isn’t worth much right now, but the latter? Zacian V variants were huge at the last major, official event (Players Cup Finals), and whether they’re staying on top or in decline, they’ll remain a major chunk of the metagame. Fire enjoys some good support, but also has to deal with counters like Bronzong (SM – Team Up 101/181).
As a Pokémon V, this Pokémon enjoys significantly higher HP than its baseline counterparts, being a Basic instead of a Stage 1, and might enjoy better effects (relative to costs). The trade off is it is worth two Prizes when KO’d, can’t make use of certain beneficial effects, and is subject to certain detrimental ones, all because it is a Pokémon V. Incineroar V has 220 HP, much more likely to survive a hit than not, but still within OHKO range of heavier hitting decks. [W] Weakness isn’t the worst, but also isn’t safe. A lack of Resistance is the worst, but is so common and so often inconsequential that it hardly matters. A Retreat Cost of [CCC] is likely the worst; nearly all the problems of having a [CCCC] Retreat Cost, but without access to stuff like Buff Padding.
Incineroar V knows two attacks. For [RRC] it can attack with “Grand Flame”, doing 90 damage while letting you attach up to two [R] Energy from your discard pile to one of your Benched Pokémon. “Flare Blitzer” can be used if Incineroar V has at least [RRRC], doing 220 damage to your opponent’s Active and 30 damage to whatever is using the attack (usually Incineroar V). In a vacuum, these attacks are underwhelming, taking too long to build for what they do, though still not truly bad. With the right additional Energy acceleration, draw and/or search options, Incineroar V is something of a pilot light, igniting (prepping) far stronger flames (attackers).
Flare Bltizer is also better, because now it is a plausible option even with its massive Energy cost. 220 for four isn’t a bargain, especially with the self-damage, but it is enough to justify periodically attaching a fourth Energy to Incineroar V and going out with a bang, instead of prepping your next attacker with Grand Flame. I don’t recall one single-Prize Pokémon with enough HP to survive (before effects), and most multi-Prize Basics are within OHKO range (before effects), though TAG TEAMs are a very notable exception. The self-damage is a drawback, but not a massive one. If the damage isn’t triggering an effect, used by an effect, or getting Incineroar V KO’d a turn more quickly, it doesn’t matter… and most of the time with Incineroar V, I think it won’t matter.
Fire support is important to Incineroar V. Welder is huge, as that plus a manual Energy attachment will let you Grand Flame as early as Turn 2. If your deck has room for Special Energy, this means you could risk dropping a Weakness Guard Energy or Heat [R] Energy right away and – again – still use Grand Flame. Turbo Patch and/or Volcanion (SM – Unbroken Bonds 25/214; SM – Black Star Promos SM179) could also prove handy, and you’ll probably want Giant Hearth and Fire Crystal as well (the latter to reload future uses of Welder). You shouldn’t be wholly reliant on Welder turn after turn, but you’ll want it to prep really big targets, or rekindle your deck if an Incineroar V goes down early. You’ll also want other attackers that can run on Fire Energy – like with Welder, they don’t necessarily need to be [R] types! If you can spam Welder most turns, then Hyper Potion becomes an option for healing.
Most of what I just mentioned are pretty common for Standard Format Fire decks, so I’m thinking Incineroar V has a place there. Its main competition is Volcanion, and the fact you may be better off just skipping Incineroar V and prepping stronger attackers directly. In the Expanded Format, while you still will probably want to build up some other attackers, Incineroar V might have what it takes to be its own deck. As a Basic, Incineroar V’s attacks can have their damage pumped up by the “Steam Up” Ability of Volcanion-EX. You also can use Muscle Band or Fighting Fury Belt for extra damage, with the latter increasing your HP as well. If your opponent doesn’t OHKO Incineroar V and Grand Flame prepped another copy on your Bench, you can use Acerola or Super Scoop Up to bounce your injured copy, or retreat and use Max Potion for healing. Enough decks will OHKO Incineroar V and/or negate bits of this support, but it means your Standard and Expanded decks can be related… important when you’re on a budget or just like the strategy.
Champion’s Path is not a regular set; even if (in person) Organized Play hadn’t been canceled the rest of the year, there would not have been Pre-Releases and I have seen no “Pre-Release” style products. If you want to spend the money, you could acquire enough boosters for an informal Limited Event, so I’ll still score Incineroar V for such a thing. A slow start and some Water presence in this set, make me worried Incineroar V won’t survive long enough to attack, and when it does get around to attacking, a Mulligan build means no Bench to power-up and Flare Blitzer’s self-damage could seriously shorten Incineroar V’s lifespan. As long as you have other Pokémon capable of using basic Fire Energy, even if it is a mixed (but heavy Fire) deck, Incineroar V should still be a good pull.
Incineroar V almost reaches four-out-of-five status, but both Formats have a lot of competition for it, and Expanded has more combos but even more competition (and counters for the best support). There is a real question over whether it is a middle ‘mon better left out, or if it is the missing link in a powerful chain. I have no official data on such a thing, but I think Incineroar – in general – is a popular Pokémon, so even if Incineroar V ends up being lukewarm, I’d still expect to see it. If Metal decks remain on top, there’s a huge incentive for competitive players to keep trying it as well.
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