Kingdra – Battle Styles
Date Reviewed: April 12, 2021
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Note: This article was written before I had the results from the Players Cup III Regionals. I’m literally watching the Day 2 coverage as I type this, but I’ll barely have scratched the surface by the time I finish.
Kingdra (SW – Battle Styles 033/163) is going to force me to alter my usual review order. We’re going to start with its attack, “Aqua Burst”. With a printed cost of [W], Aqua Burst lets Kingdra do 40 damage for each [W] Energy attached to itself. In terms of damage to Energy, this is only so-so, but the good news is if you can dump enough Energy onto Kingdra, you can still get the OHKO. A single [W] is largely worthless; congrats, you can OHKO Lillie’s Poké Doll. Most evolving Basics and smaller support Pokémon require [WW]. 120-for-three is decent, even when it costs [WWW], but 160 for [WWWW], 200 for [WWWWW], etc. are not. Unfortunately for Kingdra, you’re going to need six Water Energy attached to OHKO most Basic Pokémon V. More if you want to take out the real fatties in the game, like larger TAG TEAM Pokémon and any Pokémon VMAX.
Do you always need to score a OHKO, though? Depends on the rest of the strategy. Pokémon with scalable attacks are valuable because you can switch between a OHKO or 2HKO approach depending on what is more viable. Aqua Burst struggles to hit good numbers relative to the Energy attached. I keep talking about “needs”, and Kingdra needs Energy acceleration. Good thing it comes with some built in! Its “Deep Sea King” ability provides Energy acceleration through Energy retention. When your Active Pokémon is KO’d through damage from an opponent’s Pokémon’s attacks, Deep Sea King lets you move any (and up to all) of the [W] Energy attached to that Active Pokémon to the Pokémon with Deep Sea King.
You can use multiple instances of Deep Sea King at the same time, but it doesn’t do anything unless you have multiple [W] Energy to move from the Active and you don’t move them all to the same target. You can affect Special Energy, so long as they provide [W]; as long as their effects are working, Aurora Energy, Wash [W] Energy, etc. are all legal targets. If your opponent scores a KO through anything that is not damage from one of their Pokémon’s attacks, Deep Sea King cannot do anything. Special Conditions, damage counters, anything from Abilities, etc. can score KO’d without triggering Deep Sea King.
Energy retention-based acceleration is great for conserving resources long term, but is otherwise “slow” for something I’m referring to as “acceleration”. Unless your opponent has very slow or weak attackers, even with Deep Sea King doing its thing, you’ll be down a Prize or three before Aqua Burst can really start busting heads. The same is true if your opponent can take out your current attacker with anything that isn’t attack damage. In a metagame with Galarian Zigzagoon (Sword & Shield 177/202; Shining Fates SV078/SV122), there’s always the chance your opponent nearly KO’s your Energy-laden Active on their turn, then finishes you off with Galarian Zigzagoon’s Ability on the next. Galarian Weezing is a double threat; not only does its Ability counter your Ability while Galarian Weezing is active, but its attack inflicts 4 counter Poison!
Still, we have a pretty obvious combo and probable main attacker here, so let us finally move onto the rest of Kingrda. It is a baseline Pokémon: not a multi-Prize or other Rule Box Pokémon, nor does it have a Battle Style or the like. As a Water type, in the Standard Format Kingdra has access to cards like Frosmoth, Nessa, and Wash [W] Energy, and the only anti-[W] effect you might have to worry about is the “Thunderous Awakening” Ability found on Jolteon (SW – Vivid Voltage 047/185). While it doesn’t care about Pokémon typing, I’ll mention Capacious Bucket here as well. Kingdra’s typing gives it a serious edge when attacking Fire types, and we do indeed have some strong Fire decks in the Standard Format’s metagame.
Kingdra has 150 HP, which is low enough that decks built to 2HKO Pokémon VMAX can OHKO, let alone the really heavy hitters. 150 may still be adequate, however. Obviously, if you’re OHKOing multi-Prize Pokémon, you’re going to win the Prize trade. If you’re 2HKOing three Prize targets, the margins aren’t as large, but you’re still saying ahead. You can even 3HKO three-Prize targets, 2HKO two-Prize Pokémon, and OHKO fellow single-Prizers and keep up. [L] Weakness could be a problem, given that Pikachu & Zekrom-GX is still one of the best decks. The TAG TEAM itself doesn’t really care, as it already had a OHKO before Weakness, but its supporting attackers may benefit. No Resistance is the worst, but Resistance is only a mild bonus, so moving on. A Retreat Cost of [C] is easy to pay the majority of the time.
You may have noticed we haven’t addressed one key attribute of Kingra yet. It is a Stage 2. Without shortcuts, you’ll need to Bench a Horse, the next turn evolve into Seadra, and finally another turn later evolve into Kingdra. Three total cards and three total turns for Kingdra to hit the field. There are no good Horsea. Your best bet is probably Horsea (SW – Battle Styles 031/163). Its “Smokescreen” cost [W] and does 10 damage, plus the Defending Pokémon has to flip if it tries to attack the next turn. In Expanded, there is also Horsea (XY – Primal Clash 30/160), as for [W] it can use “Bubble” to flip for Paralysis. There are no good Seadra. The only one that isn’t pure filler is Seadra (BW – Plamsa Freeze 19/116), only available in Expanded, and it just has Smokescreen again, doing 20 instead of 10, but with the same cost and effect.
Rare Candy is usually the best option, and Seadra lives down to that. You’ll still probably want a Seadra or two, because Rare Candy cannot be easily recycled, you may face Item-lock, etc. but Rare Candy will be your preferred approach. What about other forms of Evolution acceleration? There are more than I usually discuss, because most are more trouble than they’re worth. I freely admit, I usually get blindsided when something like Orbeetle (SW – Battle Styles 065/163) or Meganium (SM – Lost Thunder 8/214) actually leads to a competitive deck, but it does happen on rare occasions. Meganium is Expanded-only, and so is the next option: Archie’s Ace in the Hole. Would “Archie’s Kingdra” be a viable build? Without sufficient Energy acceleration, I’m thinking it isn’t worth rushing Kingdra to the field. What does make me wonder about Kingdra in Expanded is Life Dew…
…but I’m getting ahead of myself. Kingdra has to overcome its own Stage and Energy hungry nature, but it certainly has the means for handling the latter. I don’t like that you’ll need a secondary form of Energy acceleration, especially as the most obvious option (Frosmoth) basically means you could run a better attacker than Kingdra. In Expanded, things would be better if I wasn’t worried about Energy discarding effects and Ability denial. Even manually evolving (but with Rare Candy), you should otherwise be able to stream Kingdra, hopefully with Life Dew, but the final piece of the puzzle is Aqua Patch. Use it to get that early burst of speed.
- Standard: 2/5
- Expanded: 2/5
I almost bumped Kingdra up to a three-out-of-five for both Formats. Kingdra has a lot going for it, or at least, not going against it, but it is both Energy hungry and a Stage 2. Even though Deep Sea King means you shouldn’t need as much Energy as you would otherwise, you still need enough Energy so that having large amounts in play are possible. Even as a Basic, we’d be talking about a deck with a slow buildup, and in order to move our Energy around, something with Energy already attached is getting KO’d. There’s a lot of moving pieces and even if everything keeps flowing, your opponent may have too great a price lead for you to make it up by the end.
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