– Sword & Shield
April 28, 2020
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Noctowl (Sword & Shield 144/202) is a [C] Type Pokémon; nothing is naturally [C] Weak or Resistant. Unless we worry about the Unlimited Format, and we’re not. There are no Type-specific counters or support for [C] Types in Standard, though there are few still in Expanded. Of course Noctowl would be better if it were a Basic, but being a Stage 1 is still acceptable; you should be able to work it into many decks without serious trouble, unless the deck is already crowded.
Noctowl has 110 HP; this is the middle of the “low end” of the HP range. What that means is Noctowl is most likely getting OHKO’d, but sometimes you’ll get lucky and your opponent’s attacks will just barely fall short of the OHKO. Weakness just shaves off a few more of those exceptions; many (most?) competitive [L] Type attackers already hit hard enough to OHKO Noctowl sans Weakness. Any Resistance is appreciated, though between the HP and metagame, [F] Resistance won’t often make a difference. The Retreat Cost of [C] is good; easy to pay or zero out most of the time.
Noctowl has two attacks. “Wing Attack” requires [CC] and lets Noctowl do 40 damage. “Carry Off” needs [CCC] and lets you choose one of your opponent’s Benched Pokémon; your opponent shuffles that Pokémon and all cards attached to it back into their deck, then you shuffle Noctowl and all cards attached to it back into your own. Wing Attack is under-powered and quite forgettable, though it isn’t awful. Carry Off is incredibly powerful if your opponent has a target that can’t be readily restored to the field.
If the target can be readily restored to the field, with a comparable setup, you’re barely inconveniencing your opponent. In fact, you could actually help your opponent out in doing this, sending something badly injured back into the deck, complete with valuable Tools or Energy that could be more useful elsewhere! It should be incredibly obvious ahead of time, but such is the nature of an effect like this. You’re trying to sabotage your opponent’s field, but you’re not taking any Prizes for doing so, the way you would with a KO. So why would you take this approach?
You may have a deck strategy that prefers you take no Prizes, but most likely you just can’t afford to go for the KO under the same circumstances. Slap a Triple Acceleration Energy on Noctowl, and shuffle away whatever the best target is that turn. Noctowl will also recycle itself and the Triple Acceleration Energy, so you could theoretically do it over and over again. The bad news is you’ll need another Pokémon to step up in the meantime (you lose if you Bench yourself out) but the good news is that you get to promote a different Pokémon between attacks. Huh?
When it just comes to absorbing damage safely, there are a decent assortment of Pokémon with bulky HP scores, protective effects, plus the ever expendable Lillie’s Poké Doll. You could take things a step further, however, thanks to various disruptive Abilities that only work while that Pokémon is Active. Just a few unproven, untested examples:
These two are mutually exclusive, in that they cannot both be Active at the same time. Unless you’re playing using the “fun” Formats of 2-on-2 or Team Battle, but even then Weezing’s Ability would shut down Kabutops, so it doesn’t work out. What might work with Kabutops is Omastar (SM – Team Up 76/181); its Ability works from the Bench, but only if you have fewer Pokémon in play than your opponent. If that condition is satisfied, your opponent cannot play Item cards from their hand. A surgical strike by Noctowl could leave your opponent with a field still more full than your own, but lacking in offense while you’re denying them the use of both their Supporters and Item cards.
That sounds pretty impressive to me, but I haven’t heard of anyone pulling it off. What about other uses for Noctowl? I’ve heard reports of it “winning in Japan” but – my misleading screen name aside – I don’t read or write Japanese, and I’m mostly talking about one video here. It is quite possible it won only one event and then died off. Or that the differences between our SM – Ultra Prism through Sword & Shield Format and their version of the same Format results in different enough metagames that Noctowl wasn’t needed.
All of this means Noctowl is a card with enough potential it won’t receive bottom marks from me for Standard or Expanded. The one play Noctowl should have done well is the Limited Format. Its stats and first attack make it somewhat decent filler for your average non-Mulligan build Limited Format deck. Carry Off makes it a valuable counter for anything strong that shows up on your opponent’s Bench… even some things that normally set up too quickly in the Constructed Formats. Your opponent is far less likely to have a Professor’s Research or Quick Ball to grab and re-play even a big Basic Pokémon here, let alone a Stage 2 that took several turns.
Scores like these are looking awfully familiar, huh? That’s the downside of cards that do something impressive, yet don’t have any results verifying they can actually win by doing that thing in competitive play. Carry Off can’t hit your opponent’s Active, so you cannot use it to win the game directly… though you can forget about your own lack of a Bench and lose by using it. For now, just remember that Noctowl exists, because it really is amazing from a control standpoint.
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