Moltres & Zapdos & Articuno-GX
– Hidden Fates
August 27, 2019
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
At last, we get to see the actual mascot of Sky Legends, Articuno & Zapdos & Moltres-GX. Despite having three Pokémon on the card, it’s Tag Team mechanic still makes this worth three prizes (instead of four that I initially thought). There are other cards that had multiple Pokémon on the card, but most of them are joke jumbo promo cards that is not allowed in competitive play, and even the cards specify that those cards can’t be used at tournaments, so don’t even try to being a 500 HP Pokémon that does 1000 damage! I believe this card pays homage to somewhere in the manga where three of those legendary birds combined to create ZapMolCuno! Moving on, being a GX means having considerably high HP, a GX attack, gives up three prizes due to being a Tag Team, and gets excluded from certain effects. Being a Basic is the best stage due to being efficient and easy to play. 300 HP is tied with Magikarp & Wailord-GX as the highest printed HP, though the Lightning weakness can make the trio more fragile, as 150 damage is needed for a OHKO, and 4 uses of Electropower plus Choice Band from any puny Lightning Pokemon makes it a somewhat easy feat.
ZapMolCuno has two attacks. Trinity Burn costs RWLC for 210 damage. The damage is decent for the energy invested, but having to have three different energy is not. Whether one can meet the attack cost depends on the available card pool in both formats, and we’ll get to it later. Sky Legend GX costs C and puts this Pokemon and all cards attached to it into your deck. But if you also have one extra Water, Fire, and Lightning Energy attached to it – the same cost as Trinity Burn – then you inflict 110 damage to 3 of your opponent’s Pokemon. Costly as before, but 110 damage is enough to Knock Out some of the much smaller EX Pokemon as well as some single prize attackers that you want to get rid of. Shaymin-EX, Jirachi-EX, some Prism Star Pokemon, Lost March, Night March, and others get KOed and renders most of their setup useless.
Putting it all together, I can think of two ways to use ZapMolCuno. One would be to supply them energy to use both of its attacks. Both cost the same, well, if you want to exploit an additional effect for the GX attack. For Standard, I can think of Arceus Prism Star to fetch three energies from your deck to your Pokemon, and Arceus can fit into any deck. The drawback is wasting three bench slots because you need a Grass, Water, and Lightning Pokemon in play. For Expanded, Ho-Oh EX from Black & White Dragons Exalted has an ability that brings back itself from the discard pile onto the Bench as well as three different basic energies…if you flipped heads. Then you can move those basic energies via Golduck BREAK’s Hyper Transfer Ability. Another way to use it is to stall just like Magikarp & Wailord-GX. You only need one energy for ZapMolCuno for its GX attack to simply leave play and flush all damage away. Those two 300 HP behemoths does have autolosses: ZapMolCuno can’t last long against Lightning decks while Magikarp & Wailord-GX loses to Grass types.
Our third-place pick from Hidden Fates is Moltres & Zapdos & Articuno-GX (Hidden Fates 44/68, 66/68, 69/68), the first TAG TEAM Pokémon that incorporates three Pokémon instead of two… not that it means anything other than a clunkier name. I just don’t like seeing two ampersands in a single name, though I am glad I finally realized the powers-that-be arranged their names in a “three-two-one” pattern. Onto the actual card! TAG TEAM Pokémon are also Pokémon-GX, which carries its usual meaning except this Legendary Bird Trio gives up three Prizes when KO’d, instead of two (barring other effects) and the few effects that reference TAG TEAM Pokémon specifically will apply to them. Other than that, the same deal as other Pokémon-GX; power at a price.
TAG TEAM Pokémon are also always Basic Pokémon, the fastest, easiest to run, and most reliable Stage… but given that each Legendary Bird would normally be a Basic, it is also what we expected. All three Legendary Birds are part “Flying” Type in the video games, so their TAG TEAM ends up being a [C] Type, which is essentially neutral as nothing in Standard or Expanded naturally has [C] Type Weakness or Resistance, and both the [C] Type counters and support haven’t really been worth running in years (and is mostly in Expanded). Their 300 HP ties with Magikarp & Wailord-GX for the current record, likely making them a good wall. [L] Weakness hurts that plan at least a little, thanks to Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks. [F] Resistance should come in handy, though only during certain matchups. The Retreat Cost of [CCC] is bad; hard to pay but not high enough to access cards like Buff Padding or Poké Maniac.
[RWLC] pays for “Trinity Burn” to do 210 damage. “Sky Legend-GX” has a printed cost of [C] and lets you shuffle the attacking Pokémon plus all cards attached to it back into your deck; if you have an extra [R], [W], and [L] Energy attached beyond that [C], Sky Legend-GX will also his three of your opponent’s Pokémon for 110 damage. The cost of using the attacks is steep, though they may have adequate compensation in terms of damage and effects. 210 OHKO’s a lot and should 2HKO anything before protective effects or combos. However, it does fall about 30 short of what it needs to OHKO larger Pokémon-GX, including other TAG TEAM Pokémon. Giving up an attack to shuffle a Pokémon and everything attached to it is worth [C], but I’m not sure if it is worth [C] and your GX-attack for the game; the triple 110 damage would definitely be worth the full price if you were allowed to double or even triple up on the same target… but you can’t. As is, it should still be handy for setting/finishing up 2HKOs of larger targets, OHKOs of small targets, or even both at the same time.
Speed is still the name of the game in Standard, and Expanded is even faster, but I cannot think of a good way to make Moltres & Zapdos & Articuno-GX particularly fast. A decent two-turn combo? Probably; manually attach a source of [W] and [L] Energy on two different turns, and one of those same turns, use Welder and attach two basic Fire Energy. Any other approach that has popped into my mind seems too slow, clunky, and/or unsustainable. Golduck BREAK, Max Elixir, Naganadel, Porygon-Z (SM – Unbroken Bonds 157/214), and Tag Switch all offer options (sometimes solo, sometimes with each other), but nothing that screams “This will be a good, strong deck!” Which doesn’t mean Moltres & Zapdos & Articuno-GX has no hope; I already named two possible uses. Again, it can be a wall and you might make use of it with Welder. Maybe Tag Switch does have an option as some Mewtwo & Mew-GX lists already run Welder, basic Fire Energy, and Rainbow Energy. Though the deck probably doesn’t really need it.
Moltres & Zapdos & Articuno-GX was my fourth-place pick, but I’m not bothered by it taking third on our collective countdown. If anything, it provides a bit of insurance as I wasn’t overly impressed by it or yesterday’s Onix-GX, and thought they each had similar potential. The important thing is that at least they made both of these Pokémon-GX functional, and that means they’re heads and tails above most of Hidden Fates.
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