Level Ball – Battle Styles
Date Reviewed: April 15, 2021
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Note: While it was posted very late, my review for yesterday’s Salazzle (SW – Battle Styles 028/163) has been posted.
Sometimes, the designers give us a card that can turn a negative into a positive… or at least, make it less bad. Level Ball (BW – Next Destinies 89/99; XY – Ancient Origins 76/98; SW – Battle Styles 129/163, 181/163)! This Trainer-Item lets you search your deck for a Pokémon with 90 or less HP. As usual, you have to show your opponent the Pokémon and shuffle your deck afterward. There are no other costs or conditions, beyond the HP. Level Ball doesn’t care about Pokémon Type or Stage of Evolution. It doesn’t care about miscellaneous game mechanics, like being a Rule Box Pokémon or having a Battle Style. All it cares about is the printed HP on the card.
Given the HP cap on the card, it is quite good at grabbing most (but not all) evolving Basic Pokémon, as so many of them have 90 or less HP. Even some Evolutions are small enough to be legal targets. While I would usually prefer the target in question had enough HP to be a bit harder to OHKO, we’re at a point where 100 HP, 110 HP, maybe even 120 HP just aren’t that much more likely to tank a hit than 90. So yes, there are times when I’ll lament a card not being Level Ball legal. There are also certain bits of support, such as Jirachi (SM – Team Up 99/181; SM – Black Star Promos SM161) and Mew (SM – Unbroken Bonds 76/214; SM – Black Star Promos SM215). Now, we have Quick Ball, which can get any Basic. Is being able to snag some Evolutions and not requiring a discard enough to let Level Ball rival it? Under the right circumstances, yes!
If that sounds overly optimistic, we’ve got both the history of the card and the Taiwan Regional League Kaohsiung. When it first released nine years ago, Level Ball was our 6th-Place pick for BW – Next Destinies. However, it is also important to remember that Ultra Ball wouldn’t release until three months later in the next expansion. Speaking of countdowns, it took 3rd-Place as we counted down the best cards lost to the 2015 Standard Format’s set rotation. Yes, it actually happened in 2014; Standard Format’s are named for the year in which they end and (normally) have their World Championship. I think I was a little generous at the time, but Baby Mario was spot on… including that Heavy Ball was riding Level Ball’s metaphorical coattails.
Yeah, there’s more. Level Ball’s third review was not part of a countdown, but maybe it should have been. This card released before we’d relaxed the “No Reprints” rule. At the same time, I said it didn’t seem as good then as it did when it first released, and now that this time is done and gone, I think that held true. The fourth and final review was a previous Throwback Thursday. It was not Standard-legal at the time, and Quick Ball had not yet released. The latter is why I don’t think Level Ball is as useful in the Expanded Format as it once was, but it is still a nice option. You’ve got decks like Night March made of all or mostly legal targets, you’ve got stuff like Exeggcute (BW – Plasma Freeze 4/116; BW – Plasma Blast 102/101), you’ve got the few decks that involve small Evolutions… that’s enough to still be a solid card.
What probably hasn’t changed it Level Ball’s value in the PTCGO-exclusive Legacy Format. There, you can still pull off classic power plays like Level Ball => Jirachi-EX => Supporter. Level Ball hasn’t appeared in any new Theme Decks, but don’t penalize good cards for appearing in obsolete Theme Decks as much as I used to. What about the present? I mentioned a recent, Regional from Taiwan. While not the exact same Standard Format we have, five decks from the Top 16 included at least one Level Ball. That doesn’t mean Level Ball is a lock. After all, none of the top four decks from the four different Players Cup III Regionals included Level Ball. If you don’t have multiple, small targets worth searching out that with something other than Quick Ball, Evolution Incense, Pokémon Communication, etc. then Level Ball isn’t for that deck.
- Standard: 3/5
- Expanded: 3/5
- Legacy: 4/5
- Theme: 2/5 (Great card, awful decks)
Level Ball’s return to the Standard Format is most welcome, and it is still a good card. It is, however, not as great a card as it once was. Still well worth shouting out with a Card of the Day. Whether helping decks with the right Evolution lines and/or TecH, Level Ball has its place.
For this week’s Throwback, we are looking at Level Ball…once again! That is because Level Ball has returned to the Standard format due to being reprinted in SS Battle Styles. Level Ball debuted in BW Next Destines while it got its second print via XY Ancient Origins, so this is the third printing of Level Ball. It also has been reviewed several times by the crew as…
So this is the fifth review by the review crew, and even today, my thoughts regarding Level Ball is still the same. This is a pretty straightforward item card that lets you search your deck for a Pokémon with 90 or less HP and put it onto your hand. There are lots of juicy targets that possesses 90 or less HP, thus being incredibly useful on specific decks containing those Pokémon. Whether you have evolving Basics or certain Stage 1s, Level Ball will get you those cards with ease. At the same time, though, Level Ball won’t fetch you anything with 100 or more HP, so 99.9% of Stage 2s and Pokémon EX/GX/V (exception being Jirachi-EX) are out of the question, so you might have to look elsewhere to fetch you those Pokémon. Putting it together, that means Level Ball was not in every deck due to the very nature of that effect.
As far as Standard goes, there’s not many Poké Ball related cards that I’ve listed when we reviewed Ball Guy, but now Level Ball supplements Ball Guy’s limited options such that now Ball Guy can currently let you fetch a Quick Ball, Level Ball, and Cherish Ball in one go, least till this year’s annual rotation happens. In regards to the current card pool in Standard, this fits nicely in certain decks. Cherrim from Battle Styles can easily be fetched; so is both Jirachi cards from SM Team Up and SS Vivid Voltage; also members of Mad Party; and so is Frosmoth from Sword & Shield, and much more!
For Expanded, there’s way too many Poké Ball related item cards that compete for deck space, but even then, the applications varies for different decks; Some decks might afford to run various Poké Ball related cards alongside Level Ball while other decks would prefer to run a full four of Level Ball. Some existing archetypes and targets you can fetch in Expanded include, but not limited to…
-Bee Revenge Vespiquen
-Jirachi-EX (only EX Pokemon with 90 HP)
-Dynamotor Eelektrik (one of the World Championship decks that used RayEels ran a full four of Level Ball.)
-Metal Links Bronzong
-Psychic Recharge Malamar (though it might benefit more from Mysterious Treasure than Level Ball.)
-Fairy Transfer Aromatisse
-Victory Star Victini
…and much, much more! And that’s not accounting for much older cards from the HGSS series Level Ball can fetch in the Legacy Format, like Electrode Prime for instance. The only area where Level Ball suffers is in the Theme format. While Level Ball, individually, is a good card on its own, the rest of the content inside those pre-constructed theme decks can either make it useful or inconsistent, and Theme Decks tend to be inconsistent on deck building.
Level Ball is back in Standard, and it already maintained its competitive potency due to card history regarding this card’s usage. Despite being a specialized card, it would be wise to hold a playset of Level Ball for whatever deck you’re trying to build.
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