Roto Motor series of Rotom cards
– Ultra Prism
April 6, 2018
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Never before in the history of these reviews have we ended up so divided on an issue before. Some of us felt that these should have all been separated across the days of the week, while others believed this would be better to tackle them all at once. All things considered, I leaned more towards the former than the latter, but how often do you get to say you reviewed 6 cards all in one day?
All of these Rotom cards are unique in that they share an Ability with each other called Roto Motor, which basically says that their attack is free if you have 9 or more Tools in your discard pile. This kind of ingenuity in an ability does honestly require a deck built around it, as most decks I can think of don’t even get to 9+ Tools, I imagine most stick closer to 6-8 if that, but that’s why we’re reviewing all 6 at once – to see which ones are the absolute BEST with this Ability.
Mow Rotom starts out the list as a Basic Grass-Type, 90 HP, with a Fire Weakness, no Resistance, and a Retreat Cost of 1. Its attack, Special Mow, is normally a 3-for-60 that discards a Special Energy off the opponent’s Pokemon. With Roto Motor, it’s a free 60 damage that can get rid of things like DCE and Rainbow Energy. Probably one of the more useful Rotoms in the set, but like the other Rotoms, he can be easily KO’d, and his damage output even for free is a bit low. Not as low as some of his brothers, but it’s lower than what you’d like in a mid-to-late game scenario.
Heat Rotom is a happy boy as a Basic Fire-Type, 90 HP, with a Water Weakness, no Resistance, and a Retreat Cost of 1. Yeah, you might begin noticing there’s a bit of a trend here outside of the Ability. Don’t get used to it though, they’re not all like this. His attack is Heat Blast, a vanilla 3-for-80 that can be done for free with Roto Motor. It’s one of the more powerful attacks in terms of damage output, making Heat Rotom a necessity in any Roto Motor-based strategy if you want to capitalize on actually potentially KOing things, but he’s going to require the use of another Tool (i.e., Choice Band) to hit the numbers you need in order to get those 2HKOs.
Wash Rotom looks raring to go as a Basic Water-Type, 90 HP, with a Grass Weakness, no Resistance, and a Retreat Cost of 1. His Wash Arrow attack costs 3 Energy and does 50 damage to one of your opponent’s Benched Pokemon. As decent as the snipe would be, the Energy investment alone makes one wonder why this guy ended up as a Rare in the set. Even with Roto Motor, you’re not able to do anything against the Active Pokemon that would be a problem, so your best utility of this card is sniping a Basic with low enough HP, where most Basics have at least 60 HP. Maybe you’ll hit numbers with this kind of sniping, but you’re going to lose Wash Rotom in the process. I’d take a pass on this one.
Frost Rotom just wants to be like his big brother Wash as a Basic Water-Type, 90 HP, with a Metal Weakness, no Resistance, and a Retreat Cost of 1. His attack is Frost Crush, which is cheaper than most of the other Rotoms at only 2, and it deals 10 damage plus 20 more damage for every Energy attached to all of your opponent’s Pokemon. This is the attack with the most potential out of all of them, and it depends entirely on what your opponent’s deck is. Against something that can run efficiently with low to no Energy (i.e., Gardevoir-GX or Alolan Dugtrio), this card won’t do much. But against Energy-heavy characters, it can put in a solid amount of damage. Definitely worth consideration in Roto Motor builds.
The regular Rotom is different from everyone else being the small fry as a Basic Lightning-Type, 70 HP, with a Fighting Weakness, a Metal Resistance, and a Retreat Cost of 1. His attack is Plasma Slice, which is a 3-for-120 that prevents Rotom from attacking on your next turn. All things considered, this Rotom is effectively the best Rotom in terms of consistent damage output, and it’s arguably the best user of Roto Motor simply for having a consistent 3-digit number attached to it. Even the drawback isn’t that bad, but that’s probably because with only 70 HP, he’s not going to be sticking around for long. Definitely a big part of any Roto Motor deck that will likely KO anything that’s weak to Lightning.
Finally, Fan Rotom is spacing out and apparently missed the big meeting with the other Rotoms when they were talking about design, as outside of Roto Motor, he’s probably the most useless. He’s a Basic Colorless, 70 HP, with a Lightning Weakness, a Fighting Resistance, and a Retreat Cost of 0, ironically making him a prime candidate to swap out with the regular Rotom to reset the Plasma Slice attack. His own attack, Spinning Fan, costs 3 Energy and does 20 damage to each of your opponent’s Pokemon. But really though, if you wanted a move that could do that without costing so much – whether by Energy investment or Tools in your discard pile – just stick to Tapu Koko, who dishes out the same damage for the cost of a DCE. The irony of his design is that his free Retreat Cost is likely what will make him playable in a Roto Motor deck, again as a means to reset regular Rotom’s attack, but that requires regular Rotom to be alive to switch with, a rare scenario at best.
All things considered, Roto Motor is a unique Ability that inspires some creative deckbuilding, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t seem like the designers were interested in expanding on how powerful the Rotoms could have been with the Ability’s limitations in mind, opting to make it balanced in the event that a player could actually achieve the 9+ Tool requirement for it. Ultimately, this results in a series of interesting, albeit underpowered and lackluster cards that could have had more potential if there was room for some more development in the creative department.
Oh, but we already got BIG NON-GX DAMAGE OUTPUTTERS like Alolan Dugtrio! These guys would be too much!
…yeah, no, they could’ve been better.
Standard: 2/5 (the Ability requires you to build a deck around it rather than having the utility to slip them into any deck)
Expanded: 2/5 (and their actual outputs can range from abysmally poor to lackluster to decent to okay maybe one good attack)
Limited: 1.5/5 (without the proper set-up or proper Tools to work with, these cards are all almost next to useless in Limited – where the only Tools that work apply to Pokemon that may or may not be in the set)
Arora Notealus: One deck idea that comes to mind as potentially favorable to the Roto Motor team would have to be Silvally-GX. It’s an odd choice, but considering that Silvally-GX already runs a few other Tools outside of Choice Band – namely the Memory Tools to change its Typing – it’s more likely than most other decks to have 9+ Tools to satisfy Roto Motor, meaning that potentially there’s a good alternate attacker to be had. Combined with Gyro Unit, the Rotoms would all have free Retreat Cost AND free attacks, which could make them an efficient substitution against certain decks. It’s the only Standard deck I can think of that could realistically make use of these guys, because there’s certainly not going to be an all-Rotom Roto Motor strategy in Standard that’s going to dominate the competition.
Side Reviews: Solgaleo <Prism> – I talked briefly about this guy when I briefly talked about Lunala <Prism> back in my Shaymin review…huh. A quick review in a review inside of a review? And now I’m reviewing that review…while reviewing another review…if you think this is circular, you should try using Solgaleo <Prism> in the same manner for Metal decks as you do Lunala <Prism> for Psychic decks. Granted, Psystorm is better than Corona Impact, so I suppose Lunala <Prism>’s a bit better than Solgaleo <Prism>…come to think of it, Solgaleos have gotten a lot of big attacks that come with some large drawback. What are they, the Charizards of the legendary world?
Weekend Thoughts: This was a loooooooong review for sure, but what are your thoughts on this week’s cards? Do the Roto Motor Rotoms stand a chance in Standard? Could they combine well with other cards from this week? Or are they just relegated to the binder? What other decks could you use the Roto Motors in? Do you think you’d run Alolan Sandslash to help set yourself up?
We close the week with a sixshot* as we look at a series of six closely related cards:
All of these cards have the same Ability called “Roto Motor”, which allows each to ignore the Energy costs of its attacks so long as you have nine or more Tools in your discard pile. The actual text specifies “attacks” (plural) even though each of these Pokémon know only one attack; I can’t think of anything at the moment, but there have been ways to add attacks to a card so that’s nice if such a thing is printed in the future. Being able to attack for no Energy is potent, though it can be wasted if the rest of the card lets it down. It is also worth noting that Abilities, especially Abilities on Basic Pokémon, may be easily sabotaged. This means the obvious use for these cards – running them as the main attackers of a deck built around the Ability – still needs some Energy for those situations where Roto Motor is down. The second most obvious use for these cards – at least to me – is dropping them into more or less on-Type decks that can afford to run Tool heavy but also can afford to pay for the attack costs when Roto Motor isn’t working.
Next, we’ll cover what the cards mostly have in common, apart from Roto Motor; after that is done, we can delve into the specifics. All six of these cards are Basic Pokémon, which makes them easier to play than other Stages. All but Frost Rotom and Wash Rotom have different Types; this is mostly relevant about hitting Weakness, as anything else Type-specific won’t matter much in a multi-Type build. It does mean you’ll bump into Resistance and Type-specific counters more often, but you’ll also have an almost immediate workaround. I’ll go into a tiny bit more detail when I get to each card individually; here I’ll just point out that even running all six of these you’ll only be hitting four different forms of Weakness, due both to Frost Rotom and Wash Rotom sharing the same Typing and because Fan Rotom is [C] Type and nothing Standard or Expanded legal has [C] Weakness. Fan Rotom and Rotom have 70 HP, while the other four have 90 HP; it might help that all are Level Ball legal, but the main thing to take away is that even BEFORE Weakness, these are quite probable OHKO’s for the typical, competitive deck. Either these Pokémon prove to be glass cannons or decent pinch-hitters, or else they’re creative filler. The cards have a variety of Weaknesses, but with the HP it usually won’t matter; the same goes for the lack of Resistance most display, and (unfortunately) for the actual Resistance found on Fan Rotom and Rotom. Fan Rotom (SM – Ultra Prism 110/156) has a perfect free Retreat Cost, while the others all have a solid single Energy Retreat Cost.
Mow Rotom is our [G] option; not a useless Weakness to exploit, but not a high priority one for most decks. Its [R] Weakness is extra bad simply because the competitive [R] decks we see are likely to feature a low Energy, high damage attacker that does indeed gain a more reliable, lower effort OHKO from the deal. Mow Rotom may use the attack “Special Mow”, which costs [GCC] and does 60 damage, plus Special Mow discards a Special Energy from your opponent’s Active if one is present. With Roto Motor, this is a nice, nasty little trick to punish Special Energy heavy and/or [G] Weak decks. If the Ability isn’t working, that Energy cost hurts; it is good that you only need a single [G] and that two-thirds of the cost can be filled by Double Colorless Energy BUT we’re at a point where three Energy needs to do more like 90 to 120 damage to be competitive. Even taking into account the friendlier Energy requirements and handy effect, 60-for-three is still a little low (instead of just plain “low”).
Heat Rotom is our [R] attacker, unsurprisingly sporting [W] Weakness that makes things like the Greninja BREAK matchup extra bad for it. Its “Heat Blast” attack does 80 for [RCC], which is only a little low for a straight damage attack with that kind of Energy cost. When its powered by Roto Motor instead of Energy, its a good, solid blow BUT still a bit low for strategic OHKO’s and 2HKO’s (the former from exploiting Weakness). As this is a short paragraph, I’ll address Fan Rotom here. It enjoys a perfect free Retreat Cost so you don’t have to run something special just to have a pivot Pokémon. As I’ve stated, the 70 HP isn’t much worse than the 90 most others have, with the main drawback being [L] Weakness being just a little worse than facing anything that isn’t an [F] Type and the [F] Resistance being a hair less likely to matter. [CCC] pays for “Spinning Fan”, which does 20 to each of your opponent’s Pokémon. I really, really wish this attack was priced at only [CC], bringing it in line with the “Flying Flip” attack of Tapu Koko; Fan Rotom would still be a lesser Tapu Koko, but the gap between them would be a little smaller. If Roto Motor goes offline, this might be the easiest of the cards to power up, but the spread is best for setting up combos and not taking out an opposing Alolan Muk.
Both Wash Rotom and Frost Rotom are [W] Pokémon, making them easier to power-up if used on Type and giving us more options to douse most [R] Pokémon. Wash Rotom is [G] Weak and can use its “Wash Arrow” attack to do 50 damage to the opponent’s Benched Pokémon of your choice for [WCC]. Frost Rotom is [M] Weak and attacks for only [WC]; this pays for “Frost Crush” to do 10 damage plus another 20 per Energy attached to any and all of your opponent’s Pokémon. I’m not sure which Weakness is better, but in terms of attacks, it is pretty clear. Wash Arrow has the lowest return on Energy yet for damage, and while being able to target the Bench is handy, it isn’t worth doing 30 less than Heat Rotom for an equivalent Energy cost and being unable to hit your opponent’s Active. Even when Roto Motor is working, 50 to one Benched Pokémon is poor. Frost Crush is hardly perfect, but it establishes a solid niche as it allows Frost Rotom to punish Energy heavy attackers and any [W] Weak attacker that isn’t running light on Energy. Be nice if it did a little more base damage OR needed a bit less Energy to be used (not an issue when Roto Motor is working), but Frost Rotom seems pretty solid, if not simply “good”.
Rotom is the only member of this series that has to compete with cards of the same name – there are older counterparts to the others in the series, but they predate even the Legacy Format of the PTCGO, let alone Expanded – but none of those have proven competitive so it doesn’t really matter. There isn’t a lot of [L] Weakness floating around right, which is a pity because this card would clobber it; for [LLL] it can attack with “Plasma Slice” to do 120 damage. There is a drawback, however; Rotom cannot attack the next turn… assuming it survives (70 HP and [F] Weak) and cannot reset the effect such as by using Guzma and a Pokémon with a free Retreat. As you can tell, I don’t think this is a particularly bad drawback, and this is enough to score 2HKO’s against most Pokémon BEFORE damage buffs. If something [L] Weak does show up, 250 HP is required for it to hang on with just 10 HP. Unfortunately, if Roto Motor is offline, the attack cost is not an easy one to meet, though it wouldn’t be impossible with – for example – a Rainbow Energy and a Counter Energy (assuming you have more Prizes left than your opponent).
So, the only real winner here is Rotom, and that might be giving it too much credit. Fan Rotom, Frost Rotom, and Heat Rotom seem “okay”, with Mow Rotom not quite “okay” because it is a bit too niche. Wash Rotom is the only one that seems outright “bad”. IF you can build a deck that dumps its Tools pretty quick – finding space for enough Tools is the tricky part – we’ll have a functional deck. I’m not sure if it will truly be “competitive”, however; what we really need is are [F] and [P] Type Rotom. The default version of Rotom is an Electric/Ghost hybrid in the video games, so a [P] Rotom is possible, but I’m not holding out hope that the powers-that-be will release more with this gimmick. Sadly, there is no Fighting-, Ground-, or Rock-Type Rotom to give us a [F] Type Rotom in the TCG. Actually looking at the cards, it did occur to me that besides an unlikely inclusion into “on-Type” decks for a single Rotom, and besides running all but Wash Rotom in the same deck, you might take Heat Rotom and Mow Rotom and back them with Lurantis (SM – Black Star Promos SM25) so that its “Sunny Day” Ability can buff their attacks. Given how none of my ideas for that Lurantis have panned out before… the best place to enjoy any or all of these would be in Limited Format play; with only three Tools in the set and no good way of discarding them, Roto Motor will probably be useless but the mediocre stats and attacks become much better in the Limited Format.
NOTE: This is an aggregate score for all the cards we just reviewed.
*Yes, it would make more sense to refer to this kind of review as a sixpack” but I wanted to work in a Transformers reference for a transforming Pokémon. >.>
Today, we’re reviewing six cards (or seven) in this COTD. Why so many? Multiple cards that does the same thing, such as having identical attacks, abilities, or other cards related to each other, would be easier to review in one block then trying to review them separately. Cards like Victini-EX/Victory Piece, Night March from XY Phantom Forces consisting of Joltik/Pumkaboo/Lampent, and/or Vaporeon/Jolteon/Flareon from XY Ancient Origins would’ve been a good candidate of reviewing multiple cards in one COTD. The reason we’re reviewing six cards in one COTD (well, seven, if you count the alternate type Rotom from Japanese’s SM Ultra Force subset) is because the subject for today is Rotom forms, all from SM Ultra Prism. They all possess an ability called Roto Motor, which states that as long as you have nine or more Pokémon Tools in the discard pile, ignore the attack costs of this Pokémon. That means all of those Rotom forms can attack for free! And you can even exploit Max Potion to heal those Pokemon, and the energy discard penalty is meaningless! Moreover, they are all Basic Pokemon, which is the best stage for the Pokémon TCG: less deck space and easy to be put into play. The payoff is sometimes worth the requirement, as Pokemon Tools don’t last very long on the field due to Field Blower, or if you make Pokemon Tools discard fodder. Even then, I would still suggest you put useful tools even if it is being used as fodder because you may need to attach one at some point. Choice Band, Float Stone, Bursting Balloon….these are good examples. Perhaps the most blatant example would be all Spirit Link cards, they would do nothing for you in your deck.
As I said earlier, there are six current Rotom forms (the seventh one haven’t been released yet), and I will go over them as I see fit. Mow Rotom (SM Ultra Prism 14/156) is a Basic Grass type with 90 HP, weak to Fire, and a Retreat Cost of one. It’s attack Special Mow, costs GCC for 60 damage, and you discard a Special Energy attached to the Defending Pokemon. Heat Rotom (SM Ultra Prism 24/156 is a Fire type with 90 HP, weak to Water, and a Retreat Cost of one. It’s attack, Heat Blast, costs RCC for 80 damage. Wash Rotom (SM Ultra Prism 40/156) is a Water type with 90 HP, weak to Grass, and a Retreat Cost of one. Wash Arrow costs WCC and does 50 damage to one of your opponent’s Benched Pokemon. Wash Rotom cannot damage the opponent’s Active Pokemon at all. Frost Rotom (SM Ultra Prism 41/156) is a Water type with 90 HP, weak to Metal, and a Retreat Cost of one. Frost Crush costs WC for 10 damage, plus 20 more damage for each energy attached to all of your opponent’s Pokemon. Rotom (SM Ultra Prism 50/156) is a Lightning type with 70 HP, weak to Fighting, resists Metal, and a Retreat Cost of one. Plasma Slice costs LLL for 120 damage, with the clause saying that this Pokémon cannot attack next turn. And lastly, Fan Rotom (SM Ultra Prism 110/156) is a Colorless type with 70 HP, weak to Lightning, resist Fighting, and free Retreat Cost. Spinning Fan costs CCC and does 20 damage to each of your opponent’s Pokemon. There’s also a alternate type Rotom from Japanese’s SM Ultra Force subset based on Rotom (SM Ultra Prism 50/156) with the same attributes such as 70 HP, and a retreat cost of one, except that it is a Psychic Type that’s weak to Dark and resist Fighting. Plasma Slice costs PPP instead of LLL in this case while still doing 120 damage.
As for which Rotom cards are worth using, I would go with Frost Rotom, Rotom, and Fan Rotom, and Psychic Rotom. Frost Crush can be easily fueled by Counter Energy and punish your opponent for having too many energy on the board, as it takes 12 energies on the board from your opponent’s side to reach OHKO levels (or six energies when dealing with Water weak Pokemon, which is present mostly on Fire types and some Fighting Type Pokemon). Plasma Slice is the most powerful move for one of both Rotom and it’s alternate type, being able to almost 2HKO anything in the game. Despite not being able to attack next turn, you can reset the clause by switching this Pokémon with another Pokémon or leaving play. Spinning Fan hits each of your opponent’s Pokemon for 20 damage, and if your opponent cannot turn things around, then Fan Rotom helps you set up for KOs. Tapu Koko (SM Promo 31) does it efficiently, however, needing just a DCE instead of nine Pokemon Tools in the discard to do the same thing. Mow Rotom is situational, it you’re in a heavy Special Energy environment, then it is useful in that regard. Heat Rotom doesn’t hit as hard, but benefits from Volcanion-EX. 80 for free is nothing to scoff at, and Steam Up can ramp up to 200 damage! Wash Rotom isn’t hitting many targets and is completely hopeless if Mr. Mine (XY BreakThrough) is in play due to Bench Barrier. And Fan Rotom is outclassed by Tapu Koko. So that leaves it with Rotom, Psychic Rotom, and Frost Rotom to be used the most in variety of decks. However, Frost Rotom would almost be a loose staple even without Roto Motor taking into effect.
So what drawbacks can you expect to face with such a strategy? Ability denial is one of them, if Abilities are shut down by Garbodor (XY BreakPoint) or even Alolan Muk (Sun & Moon), then it doesn’t matter how many tools are in the discard. Low HP is also a concern. 70-90 HP won’t take you very far; you may have pulled off a free attack, only to get OHKOed next turn. With this many tools in the discard, Garbodor (SM Guardians Rising) can already do 180 damage with it’s Trashalanche attack, and that’s even before factoring other item cards that you’ve already played. Jolteon-EX’s (XY Generations) Flash Ray protects itself from Basic Pokemon while dealing damage. Those examples keep Rotom forms from functioning if you don’t have an answer to such threats. I almost suggested Mew-EX (BW Dragons Exalted, XY Promo) and Mew (XY Fates Collide), and although it can copy each of Rotom’s respective attack, it doesn’t have Roto Motor, making you pay the full price of those attacks.
So is it worth playing? Based on some deck that I’ve seen on forums, Rotom forms can create its own deck, trying to utilize all of its forms. Other decks had Silvally-GX as well. I’m thinking that’s because Silvally-GX has a variety of memory cards, which can act as discard fodders if you are facing a deck that is not weak to your corresponding memory cards. That can easily bring such tools into the discard pile, dumping type matchups that aren’t needed. I have yet to see any placings from major tournaments regarding Rotom cards, so looks like the cards aren’t being competitive enough, which regulates those cards for casual play. In Limited, there’s tools like Escape Board, Fire Memory, and Electric Memory to discard, but I didn’t see a card in the SM Ultra Prism set that discards Pokemon tools, so I believe that it will be hard to capitalize on the Roto Motor ability. Even 70-90 HP in a less hostile format still won’t cut it for Limited play, let alone trying to make a Silvally-GX deck for limited; you’ll need insane luck to pull these cards in 4 packs.
Conclusion: Being able to attack for free is a valuable asset, but low HP, ability denial, and even the requirement of Roto Motor are factors that keep those Rotom forms from seeing serious play because such a strategy may not be able to work or that the execution is interrupted. Some Rotom forms may not make use of free attacks due to its own attack being underwhelming such as Wash Rotom, hence why I am being generous by giving them a two-out-of-five. If I were to be rating it separately, then Mow Rotom would be a 2/5; Heat Rotom would be a 2.5/5; Wash Rotom would be a 1.25/5; Frost Rotom would be a 3.5/5 (Counter Energy can fulfill its cheap WC attack cost, and it doesn’t have to rely on Roto Motor, which is a huge plus); Regular Rotom would be a 3/5; Fan Rotom would be a 3/5; and it’s alternate type Psychic Rotom would be a 3/5.
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