– Sword & Shield
March 25, 2020
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
It has been a trend in all the main Pokemon series games that you pick one of the three starters which is always Grass, Fire, and Water types. They’re made to be more than decent for in-game purposes, but some even took it far to just level them up all the way to level 100 and steamroll their way through the Hall of Fame, which isn’t unheard of. We looked at Inteleon with Shady Dealings a few weeks ago in the TCG and it has a lot of potential. Today’s review of Rillaboom is going to have just as much potential as Inteleon.
Getting most parts of the card out of the way, it is a Stage 2 Grass Type with 170 HP, weak to Fire, and a retreat cost of three. Hammer In does 140 damage for GGGC without any other effects, which is mediocre. The most important part of this card is it’s ability, Voltage Beat, which lets you attach up to 2 Grass energies from your deck to one of your Pokemon. This provides energy acceleration AND thins your deck so that you get a better chance to top draw a specific card. This isn’t unlimited energy acceleration, however, as combined with just the ability and manual attachment, you can only get three energy on the board to cover attack costs that involve Grass or Colorless energy. But if you have more than one in play, you can use multiple of the same ability to attach as much as EIGHT Grass energies on the board.
This card would’ve been far better if Forest of Giant Plants we’re still legal, but it’s not, and not even Expanded where it’s banned there, so we have to look elsewhere. Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor-GX seems to be the alternative to cheat evolution, as it’s free attack of Super Growth lets you evolve your Grass Pokemon from your deck while thinning your deck! After evolution is complete, you have a variety of Grass type attackers that can benefit from the ability: Rillaboom-V & V-Max, Dhelmise-V, Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor-GX, the other Stage 2 Rillaboom with 190 HP, and much more!
Rillaboom is sure to be the headliner of Grass based decks that need to fuel up attacks, and it’s definitely needed in Standard since there isn’t much Grass based support in that format besides Life Forest and Net Ball. However, according to decks from Limitless, the Rillaboom line was ran, on average, a 0.43 copy (single copy at best in Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor-GX decks). It might do well in Expanded but ability lock, Forest of Giant Plants being banned, and other efficient energy acceleration cards had made it somewhat redundant. And for Limited, this is one of the four Prerelease promos that you can pull from the Build & Battle box as well as a 3-2-1 Rillaboom line and a single copy of Snorlax on top of it. If you can make a Rillaboom deck out of it, then your only mission is to get it in play fast.
Rillaboom (Sword & Shield 014/202; SSH – Black Star Promos SWSH006) is a single Prize Pokémon with no specialty mechanics, something to remember as we continue on, even if it seems so obvious. It is a Stage 2 Pokémon, so its going to take some time and/or effort to hit the field, and probably eat up a decent chunk of deck space. It’s [G] Typing is decent for exploiting Weakness, but Sword & Shield-era [M] Types resist it. anti-[G] effects probably won’t matter, but some [G] Type-based support will be helpful, though it may be indirect.
170 HP is decent in terms of the HP scores you’ll find on Stage 2 Pokémon; sometimes surviving a hit, sometimes not. My big concern is that the “Venom Shot” attack on Naganadel-GX (SM – Unified Minds 160/236, 230/236, 249/236) – which is sometimes copied by Mewtwo & Mew-GX – can OHKO it even on the Bench. [R] Weakness is also a significant concern, as we’re still in a Welder-heavy metagame. Cherrim (SM – Ultra Prism 11/156) can help with that, or Weakness Energy. No Resistance is typical, and a Retreat Cost of [CCC] is hard to pay; plan around it.
Rillaboom knows the Ability “Voltage Beat” and the attack “Hammer In”. The former lets you search your deck for up to two [G] Energy cards once during your turn, then attach them to one of your Pokémon (finish up by shuffling your deck). Hammer In requires [GGGC] to do 140 damage. Thanks to the Ability, the attack is decent, but the Ability is why we’re reviewing this card. Only basic Grass Energy count as [G] in your deck, and they have to go to the same Pokémon, but there are no Type restrictions so you just need an attacker that runs on all or mostly [G] Energy and you can ready it fast, ideally in a single turn.
Rillaboom evolves from Thwackey evolves from Grookey, and no version of either particularly stands out. There is another Rillaboom, Sword & Shield 015/202. Same stats as today’s except for 190 HP, and two attacks instead of an Ability and attack pairing. [GGC] lets it do 90 plus 10 damage spread to your opponent’s Bench via “Drum Roll”, or for the same [GGGC] as Hammer In, it can swing for 180 damage using Drum Beating, but can’t use Drum Beating the next turn (unless you reset attack effects). It might be worth it as a TecH Stage 2 attacker, but only just.
Currently, Rillaboom has only known some competitive success, and that is in the Expanded Format. Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor-GX is the preferred opener used to speedily evolve into your Stage 2 Pokémon. Besides a slim (1-1-1 or 2-2-2) Rillaboom line, the deck also packs a split between Vileplume (XY – Ancient Origins 3/98) and Vileplume (SM – Burning Shadows 6/147) for their fantastic Abilities. Rillaboom does just what you’d expect in this deck; it provides precious Energy acceleration.
While not a proven option for our Standard, apparently a Rillaboom deck is doing well in the Japanese Standard Format. Annoyingly, I don’t have a specific tournament result to reference, but I can at least link you to a video covering the deck. The short version is the deck uses Voltage Beat to quickly ready the attacks of Rillaboom V (SSH – Black Star Promos SWSH014) or – preferably – Rillaboom VMAX (not out in English… yet). Rillaboom V isn’t that impressive right now, but Rillaboom VMAX has 330 HP and an attack with scalable damage. That attack’s base cost is only 130 for [GGGC] – which is bad – but you can discard up to three [G] Energy from Rillaboom VMAX to do an extra 50 damage per.
Rillaboom is great for the Limited Format; try to run it with attackers that have mostly (or only) [G] or [C] requirements. Of course, you do need the rest of the line. Is it any good in the Rillaboom Theme Deck? Trick question! It isn’t in there at all, just the version that has no Ability I mentioned above.
There have been murmurings that Rillaboom was going to be one of the big new archetypes, or at least, one of the competitive new archetypes since before Sword & Shield released. It hasn’t lived up to it yet but Vikavolt (Sun & Moon 52/149; SM – Black Star Promos SM28) also had a slow start, so I’ll extend some credit to its Standard Format score. Rillaboom wasn’t on my top 20, but was considered for it; it made another reviewer’s list, so it would have been our 28th-place pick, which might be about right.
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