– Darkness Ablaze
November 7, 2020
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
We close out this week with Kangaskhan (SW – Darkness Ablaze 133/189; SW – Black Star Promos SWSH038). This card is mostly about its first attack, “Rally Back”. Priced at [CC], it does 30 damage but if one of your Pokémon were Knocked Out by damage from an opponent’s attack during your opponent’s last turn, the attack does an extra 90 damage. Two for 30 is bad, but 120 for two is good. Is it that simple? No, so let us keep going. The second attack is “Hammer In” for [CCC], doing 100 damage. With both attacks able to use any Energy, Twin Energy can pretty easily cover Rally Back, and if Kangaskhan actually survives being attacked back, then you can judge whether or not to drop one more Energy for a decent (but not good) follow-up attack.
This is a baseline Pokémon, worth only one Prize when KO’d. This is useful not only for trading Prizes, but because if you’re seriously trying to use an attack like Rally Back, you need your opponent taking Knock Outs. Being a Colorless Pokémon hurts. Yes, it means nothing is naturally Resistance, that some support exists (mostly in Expanded), and counters only exist in Expanded (and most are negligible) but you never get to exploit Weakness. I’ll touch on why that is so important later, because it basically requires a mini-review of Terrakion (BW – Noble Victories 73/101, 99/101; BW – Boundaries Crossed 151/149; BW – Legendary Treasures 84/113).
Another important aspect is being a Basic Pokémon; with evolutions, you are more likely to telegraph the play, so your opponent can try to score a KO with something that can easily survive Rally Back, or which is expendable. That is on top of the usual benefits of being a Basic (minimum deck space, no waiting to evolve, etc.). 130 HP is decent; medium-sized and larger attacks easily score a OHKO, but those attacks usualy come with medium-sized and larger costs so that is acceptable. Fighting Weakness is hard to qualify; the next set looks like it could really help Fighting types, but I’ve said that before and been disappointed. The card’s lack of Resistance is typical, so it isn’t really a problem. Similarly, its Retreat Cost of [CC] is neither low enough to be advantageous nor high enough to be disadvantageous.
What Kangaskhan does right is being a splashable attacker utilizing a trick that has worked before. Let’s go with Terrakion, because it is – or at least was – the postermon for this tactic. A baseline, Basic Fighting type with 130 HP, [G] Weakness, no Resistance, and a Retreat Cost of [CCCC]. This Terrakion’s attacks were “Retaliate” and “Land Crush”, priced at [FC] and [FFC], respectively. Retaliate did 30 base damage, plus 60 if the same conditions as that of Rally Back were met. Land Crush did a vanilla 90 damage. Pokémon-EX weren’t going to debut until the next expansion, and even then, they were all Basics with 180 or lower HP. This means the attack damage for Rally Back and Retaliate is proportional, while Hammer In is actually slightly less than Land Crush. Yes, even though Hammer In actually does 10 more damage.
Quad Terrakion decks were a strong, competitive archetype when Terrakion was new, and three out of four World Championship decks from 2012 included two copies of Terrakion. If you’re thinking this was due to stacking damage bonuses with cards like Strong Energy and Muscle Band… you’re a few years early. Those are early XY-era cards, while Terrakion is early BW-era, though I think they overlapped near the end of its time in Standard (they kept reprinting Terrakion). What made it work was exploiting Weakness and the numbers; Terrakion hit the majority of BW-era Colorless types, and nearly all BW-era Darkness and Lightning types for Weakness. [F] Weak Basic Pokémon-EX were OHKO’s, neutral targets were 2HKO’s, and Resistant Pokémon were still 2HKO’s, but you’d need some form of damage boost.
Kangaskhan is not Terrakion. It is a nice option if your deck already runs on Twin Energy, Welder, etc. At least, if you don’t have a better single-Prize attacker. Glancing through the Standard-legal, single-Prize Colorless Pokémon, none can do as much for [CC] as Kangaskhan, but once we get into other types that can be readied as quickly due to other forms of Energy acceleration, or even some Colorless-types that just need a bit more Energy (Welder plus a manual Energy attachment), the competition starts popping up. In Expanded, even with there being both Twin Energy and Double Colorless Energy, Kangaskhan will be niche. Not entirely useless, but not something I expect to see unless you need a solid answer to stuff like Night March, Lost March, and Mad Party. I’m not even sure if any of those decks are competitive in Expanded right now, so don’t get too excited.
The Limited Format and the Theme Format are where Kangaskhan can shine. Even doing 30-for-two or 100-for-three while having 130 HP is decent here, as long as that is not all you can do. You do need to remember that, in the Limited Format, you only play with four Prizes each, so that means fewer chances for Rally Back to trigger, but the lower average damage output of opposing Pokémon means Rally Back has a better change of taking a revenge OHKO, let alone a revenge KO in general. Being able to slip in decks running on any Energy is a big help as well. The Theme Format requires you run the Galarian Darmanitan Theme Deck. I tried it a little, and while I can’t tell if it is a strong deck, it doesn’t seem to be obviously weak… and its two copies of Kangaskhan are appreciated.
If you’re wondering, yes, I’m being a bit generous. You are not – for example – going to build a Mulligan-style deck around your Kangaskhan in the Limited Format. It is still a very good card in Limited and Theme, even if I’m rounding up. Where I’m worried you’ll get the wrong idea is in Standard and Expanded; as is, this card barely qualifies as a two-out-of-five. I just don’t think it can hit the right numbers for a reasonable investment. Still, it does enough to remember it in case we get the right kind of support in the future.
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