– Rebel Clash
June 30, 2020
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Ninetales (SSH – Rebel Clash 25/192) is a Fire Pokémon, letting Ninetales exploit a fairly popular Weakness and utilize some strong type-based support. Well, basic Energy type-based, but Fire Pokémon tend to be the better at using basic Fire Energy than most other Types. Nothing is naturally [R] Resistance, though there are a few anti-[R] effects, including stuff like Araquanid (SM – Ultra Prism 17/156), which proved competitive for a short time. It is also worth noting that Ninetales is a “regular” Pokémon: worth one Prize when KO’d and not belonging to any notable card families, outside of its own evolution line.
As a Stage 1 Pokémon, Ninetales requires more effort to run than a Basic, but not a tremendous amount. You’ll swap dealing with Basic support and counters for dealing with evolution support and counters. 120 HP is low, a probable OHKO but not a super easy one, where your opponent pulls it off with some bargain supporting attack or attacker. [W] Weakness means Water attackers are the exception, though at least they’ll still need to do 60 base damage… and aren’t exactly a common sight in the competitive scene. No Resistance is typical, but also the worst. A Retreat Cost of [C] is good; not as nice as a natural free retreat, but often easy to pay or zero out with a combo.
Ninetales has no Abilities, but does know two attacks. “Hex” costs [R] and let’s Ninetales hit for 30 damage unless your opponent’s Active is afflicted with a Special Condition, in which case the damage becomes 120. 120 for one is really nice, even factoring in that this is a Stage 1. Making sure your opponent’s Active is affected by a Special Condition will require building your deck around such a thing, but under such circumstances, it is only a moderate burden. [RCC] lets Ninetales use “Flickering Flames” to do 90 damage, while leaving your opponent’s Active Asleep. It is mostly a filler attack, or a desperation move to maybe stall and maybe score 120 with Hex the next turn.
Maybe? The Sleep probably isn’t lasting until your turn, whether because there’s a 50% chance it goes away on its own during the Pokémon Checkup, or because shaking Special Conditions is simple for most decks: retreat, evolve, etc. Hex is a fairly good attack, though, to the point it should be worth it to run Pokémon with Abilities or attacks with effects that can Burn, Confuse, Paralyze, Poison, or put to Sleep your opponent’s Active Pokémon before you attack, so that Hex can then do its thing. Sadly, Vulpix isn’t going to help with that, nor are the other versions of Ninetales.
Not that there are no other Ninetales worth mentioning. Ninetales (SM – Team Up 16/181) has its useful gusting Ability, while Ninetales (BW – Dragons Exalted 19/124; BW – Black Star Promos BW66) has a harder-to-reuse gusting effect while also having an attack similar to Hex. Fortunately, there are many Pokémon with Abilities that can help today’s Ninetales out. Set-mate Garbodor (SSH – Rebel Clash 118/192; SSH – Black Star Promos SWSH025) has an Ability that can Poison your opponent’s Active and it only requires there be a Stadium in play to use. Koga’s Trap eats up your Supporter for the turn, but leaves your opponent’s Active Poisoned and Confused.
It gets even better in Expanded, where you could use Hypnotoxic Laser for guaranteed Poison and a chance at Sleep. You could also slap a Muscle Band on Ninetales for 20 more damage, and have Virbank City Gym as your Stadium so that the Poison places two extra damage counters during the Pokémon Checkup. 140 damage plus three damage counters for one Energy and simple combo, on a Stage 1 attacker. If you can spare the Bench space and don’t mind relying on Abilities, Seviper (SM – Burning Shadows 50/147; SM – Black Star Promos SM46; Shiny Vault SV15/SV94) has an Ability that adds one damage counter to what Poison places between turns.
If you want to try the trick in Standard or believe your deck space and reliability can accommodate yet another Stage 1, Toxicroak (Sword & Shield 124/202) has a stronger version of this Ability, placing two extra damage counters per instance of it you have in play, not just one. By this point, you should be able to OHKO smaller Pokémon V, and small-to-medium Basic Pokémon-EX/GX in Expanded. I’m not going to rate Expanded higher, because the stronger setup your deck enjoys comes with stronger counters to your strategy, most notably Ability and Item-lock. For the Limited Format, Ninetales is decent if you’re running at least a partial Fire deck, and pretty great if you actually pull it alongside the above Garbodor and any Stadium cards.
The Constructed Formats have no examples of this Ninetales doing its thing in competitive play, or at least, of someone using it and placing well in a major event. However, I definitely see some potential here. To give you an idea, Ninetales (BW – Dragons Exalted 19/124; BW – Black Star Promos BW66) had a deck built around it back in the day. It may have just been a budget deck, but at least it was something, and a version of it persists in the Legacy Format. With their similar attacks, the deck may be worth revisiting in Expanded, and updating for Standard.
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