– Base Set
July 5, 2018
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Well, this is going to be fun! Today’s Throwback Thursdays hits the rewind button to the very beginning: Base Set. This set has some of the best cards way back in the day including Computer Search as a regular item, Professor Oak as an Item, Bill as an item card, Energy Removal, Gust of Wind, and more. But more specifically, we’re looking at Plus Power! This card received multiple prints until it’s last one, which is on the Black & White set, which makes it Legacy and Expanded legal for entirety! The effects varied over the years, ranging from having to be attached to one of your Pokemon, applying AFTER Weakness and Resistance, and discarding it by itself by the end of your turn. Well, there’s an errata that will overwrite all printings of Plus Power: During this turn, your Pokémon’s attacks do 10 more damage to the Defending Pokémon (before applying Weakness and Resistance). You can read the recent and dated review here (https://www.pojo.com/COTD/2011/July/13.shtml).
The wording is used in such a way that you play this card from your hand, as opposed to attaching it to one of your Pokemon. I think this errata was issued because we’ve seen Pokémon that has four Plus Powers attached to it and use an attack that puts this Pokémon and all cards attached to it into your hand. With this approach, that makes it easier to reuse those Plus Powers, waiting for it to be used again without ever putting it into the discard pile. Imagine using Shaymin-EX (XY Roaring Skies) with its Sky Return backed with four pre-errata Plus Power and a Choice Band; you would’ve been doing 100 damage each turn! Damaged Shaymin-EX will be sent back onto your hand, denying your opponent two prize cards! With the errata in effect, it changed the way we use Plus Power now. Now that I think about it, the errata made it powerful than previous effects. You can play as many item cards as you like, but you can use four Plus Power at best. However, there are cards that can recycle item cards from the discard back into your hand. Pretty demanding to ask for, but if you manage to have 4 Plus Powers, 4 Junk Arms, and/or Dowsing Machine, you can add 90 points of damage (or 180 if you’re facing the Defending Pokémon that has a X2 Weakness). Expanded is on a similar boat, except you would replace Junk Arm with Puzzle of Time. It even helps that you can still maintain the damage boost during your turn even if you switched your Active Pokemon with one of your Benched Pokemon.
If an item card that boosts damage becomes valuable, why isn’t it see any play? Deck space might be an issue, so is item lock, as well as fueling up Trashalanche’s damage output. Competition also hurts, such as providing a bigger boost while saving deck space, like Choice Band or Muscle Band for instance. Despite those shortcomings, Plus Power can give you an extra push in aggressive decks. No unlimited score, though it will greatly help second turn wins, assuming the opponent still has an Active Pokemon but no Benched Pokemon.
PlusPower (BLW 96) was part of the original Pokemon TCG base set, but it was last seen in the Black and White expansion set. This card gave you a plus ten damage spif (to the active Pokemon only) during the turn you played it.
Great card. Fantastic. Why is it not still part of the meta?
Seriously, why is it not still part of the meta?
After looking over Celestial Storm, I texted a friend in a conversation and asked, “How does Pokemon expect the card game to grow when 90% of the cards are mediocre at best?” I really wish the potency of Trainer cards would match the potency of Pokemon. No one can argue that there hasn’t been significant power leap (not power creep, no it’s much too substantial to call it a creep) over the past year. Remember Tauros GX? The most common feature Pokemon in the game a year ago? Volcanion EX? What about Lurantis GX and Decidueye GX? It’s not just the absence of FoGP that’s moved them down the Pokemon TCG food chain. We’ve seen a number of incredibly powerful Pokemon enter the game in the last twelve months, some of them perhaps the most dominant Pokemon ever.
But Items and Supporters? Meh. A handful of Supporters and only a few more Items make up the majority of Trainers played by meta decks. And I look at Celestial Storm and honestly it makes me a little angry. Sky Pillar: why can’t it remove effects as well as prevent them? Rainbow Brush – why not simply attach a different energy? Why only trade one energy for another? Tate and Lisia – why not both – why not draw up to five and switch your active?
I just don’t get it. Maybe somebody can explain it to me, but I just don’t get why Pokemon continually underpowers its Trainer cards. All I’m saying is it’d be great to have some better Trainer cards that would add some diversity to the game.
Standard: 4 out of 5
My hypothetical four out of five ranking is based mostly on the fact that it’s only ten damage. If it were twenty – or even thirty – you’d be jumping out of your shoes for this card. But then again if it added twenty or thirty damage that would make it too potent, too powerful, too … playable.
Today we look at a card that goes all the way back to the beginning of the Pokémon TCG and which is still legal in the Expanded Format: PlusPower! Though I may have missed a few, here are its releases over the years for the game outside of Japan:
PlusPower is a Trainer-Item that causes attacks made by your Pokémon to do 10 more damage to Active Pokémon until the end of your turn, before applying Weakness or Resistance. An attack has to do damage in the first place for it to receive this bonus. It won’t help Bench hits, but your own Active Pokémon take extra damage as well, so mind attacks that do self-damage. If you’re using any of the more obscure, semi-official alternate formats that involve multiple Active Pokémon, any damage increases apply to all of them. Very few Pokémon are capable of attacking more than one in a turn – I can only recall is Raichu Lv.X (DP – Stormfront 99/100) – but PlusPower does indeed add to the damage done by both attacks. Doing damage before Weakness and Resistance is good, as it turns the +10 into an effective +20 against Weakness, and can allow attacks to punch through Resistance or damage reducing effects. More than one PlusPower may be played at once, and the damage bonus will stack; for example, if you play three in one turn you’re looking at a +30 bonus before Weakness and Resistance.
Except it wasn’t always this way, as the two most recent versions of the card have significantly different text from earlier releases. Some of this is due to evolving game mechanics, such as how we now have “Items” instead of just “normal Trainers”. The rest is because of an actual, major erratum that I believe was intentionally created to help with some abusive combos. PlusPower used to be weaker in that it had to be attached to a specific Pokémon. No, not as a Tool as that mechanic hadn’t been invented yet, nor did it ever count as a Tool even after that. The two earliest printings also required PlusPower be attached to your Active Pokémon, stated the damage increase happened after applying Weakness and Resistance (instead of before), and it only increased the damage done to the Defending Pokémon. I’m not going to worry too much about all of this, because my first-hand experience with PlusPower are from times when these differences didn’t really matter too much (the early days of the game) or after the errata made them work like the two most recent printings.
With any damage increasing card, the question is “Does the extra damage matter?”. That is right, more damage is not always a good thing. Sometimes it is a pointless thing and sometimes it can even backfire. Unless I need a certain amount of damage to trigger an effect, damage increases only help you when they decrease the number of turns required to score a KO. I do not recall the last time I saw such an effect, but at least in the distant past, you might attack something with an effect that did damage to the Pokémon attacking it specifically based on the amount of damage the attacker was doing. If that is clear as mud, an old-school example is Rocket’s Hitmonchan (Gym Heroes 11/112; Best Of Game 9). It first attack “Crosscounter” places an effect on itself that triggers if an attack damages Rocket’s Hitmonchan during your opponent’s next turn. That effect is you flip a coin, and if “heads” Hitmonchan attacks your opponent’s Active for twice the damage it just took. Rocket’s Hitmonchan only has 60 HP, so hitting it for more than 60 damage while Crosscounter if in effect is just added risk unless your attacker is already in OHKO range of the effect.
Apart from that ancient example, the main general concern is wasting resources with a sometimes specific concern of aggravating self-damage. If an attack places damage counters, whether it is on your opponent’s Active or your own, that isn’t affected by PlusPower, but something like the “Thunder Punch” attack on Electabuzz (XY – Evolutions 41/108) cares, as does the original Electabuzz (Base Set 20/102; Base Set 2 24/130; Best of Game 1; Platinum 128/127) with its “Thunderpunch” (same attack, different name), though sometimes only retroactively. Wasting resources is why PlusPower doesn’t see a lot of play in the Expanded Format, even though it has always been legal there, nor did it see much play while it was last Standard Format legal; it turns out a single slot in your deck is worth more than +10 damage now, due in large part to power creep. While certainly not the same thing, Hypnotoxic Laser usually outclassed PlusPower as an attack enhancer; even in light of effects that prevented Special Conditions, placing a damage counter (via Poison) regardless of an attack doing damage proved more beneficial than just +10 damage, largely because Virbank City Gym made that three damage counters placed (often the equivalent of three uses of PlusPower). The fact the damage counters kept coming if an opponent couldn’t shake Poison was the final nail in the coffin.
So, why review PlusPower at all? Just because +10 damage per copy doesn’t make enough of a difference now doesn’t mean it never will again, and it is historically significant as many early beatdown decks (including the infamous Haymaker) absolutely needed PlusPower to hit the key numbers that kept many Pokémon from surviving long enough to Evolve or themselves attack. The deciding factor was the revelation of a new Item in Japan; if translations of the cards from SM6a – Thunderclap Sparking are accurate, “Electric Power” is an Item that provides a +30 increase to the damage of your [L] Pokémon’s attacks. Though restricted to Pokémon of a specific Type, +30 damage is much more likely to shift a 2HKO to a OHKO, 3HKO to a 2HKO, etc. especially if Electric Power can stack with itself (as is likely the case).
I don’t know if PlusPower should come back; areas where it causes problems in the past have been handled by the erratum I mentioned, as well as the current first turn rules. I’d like first turn attacks to come back but I also want them to start designing cards that can’t attack for damage on a player’s first turn, so sooner or later that would go back to being a non-issue for this hypothetical future reprint. For the reality of the Expanded Format, PlusPower surprised me by showing up as a single in Christopher Schemanske’s 26th place deck from the Roanoake, VA Regional Championship; that’s enough for me to give it an average score. . As for the Limited Format, +10 damage is much more likely to matter here, due to lower average HP scores, lower average damage output, and the fact that the two together make KO’s take more turns. I am embarrassed I almost forgot about it in the Legacy Format; it sees a little more play there, I just haven’t had time for a Legacy Format match in a while
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