– CES 136/168
September 12, 2019
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Today’s Throwback is something that I didn’t imagine that it got reprinted: Life Herb. It is not only Standard legal, but it is a reprint, and this is the fifth print of this card!
You can read the most recent review here. And while this review is more than nine years old, it doesn’t change what they thought about it, even today. Life Herb is NOT a good card because the effect requires a heads on a coin flip to use that effect. You could argue that Pokémon Catcher needs a coin flip, but it has an effect that seems more desirable than healing. Yes, Life Herb heals 60 damage and removes all Special Conditions from that Pokémon. Which is the same as what Pokémon Center Lady does, except that she is a Supporter card that doesn’t need coin flips.
Even disregarding coin flips, Life Herb faces massive competition from other cards regardless of when it debuted. While back then it has to compete with Poke Healer+ or Nidoqueen’s constant healing between turns via Poke-Body, it now has to compete with Mixed Herbs (a far better Poke Healer+), Pokemon Center Lady, Acerola, Max Potion, and more. Life Herb simply cannot compete with others due to a unreliable coin flip. I wouldn’t mind if other healing cards have drawbacks and aftermaths, but when there is a card that can do nothing, one wonders why I would use it for.
1/5 for Standard, Expanded, Limited, and Legacy.
Life Herb is today’s Throwback, a Trainer-Item that requires you flip a coin to use it. If you get “tails” it does… nothing. If you get “heads”, then you heal 60 damage and remove all Special Conditions from one of your Pokémon. If that effect sounds familiar, it should. Our double Throwback Thursday review from two weeks ago included another look at Pokémon Center Lady; she’s a Supporter that does the same thing as Life Herb except with no coin flip. It might be worth comparing with Potion; Life Herb offers double the healing but with a 50% chance of failing and a bonus removal of any and all Special Conditions present on that one Pokémon.
I’d forgotten Life Herb has a 15 year history. There are many releases of this card: EX – Hidden Legends 90/101 (June 2004), EX – Fire Red & Leaf Green 93/112 (August 2004), Platinum 108/127 (February 2009), HS – Unleashed 79/95 (May 2010), and finally a double release as SM – Celestial Storm 136/168 and 180/168 (August 2018). We reviewed Life Herb when it first released, then the second time it was reprinted, and the third time was the next-most-recent re-release. Those reviews are not positive, even though I remember Life Herb periodically seeing successful play. Why?
To begin with, some folks just don’t like cards that rely on coin flips. Closely related, there are too many mechanics that use coin flips in the Pokémon TCG, so even if you don’t hate them, adding another is… well… risky. There is the usual problem any healing card faces; if you aren’t delaying a Pokémon being KO’d by at least one turn or comboing with something, it doesn’t actually mean anything… and it obviously means nothing in a metagame that centers around OHKO’s (as is sometimes the case). The ultimate deal-breaker Life Herb has faced each time it has been reviewed – including today – is… competition.
Healing is only sometimes a worthwhile trick, and when something does it better, why run Life Herb? In our modern Standard Format, just sticking to healing Items you can use on anything
The wording of my previous sentence should hint that healing Items don’t just compete against healing Items, but other sources of healing and non-healing effects that can be used in a similar fashion, like damage reduction or bounce. If my deck really needs healing, I’m going to look to Mixed Herbs, Pokémon Center Lady, or Super Scoop Up first. Life Herb may still find a place among them but… not likely.
The Expanded Format is even worse for Life Herb, as you have even more alternatives… plus better anti-Item effects. The one place where Life Herb is a good deal is the Limited Format. Yes, it still fails half the time, but you have a better chance of the healing making a difference, a better chance you’ll need to deal with Special Conditions, and a better chance you’ll just have the space to fill in your deck. Life Herb is also legal in the Legacy Format, but that is similar to the Expanded Format, just lacking some of the more recent alternatives. Life Herb would shine in the Theme Format but the only decks with it are those long left behind by power creep: Chaos Control, Daybreak, Recon, Retort, Royal Guard, and Steel Sentinel.
Theme: 1/5 (due to rest of deck)
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