Slaking – Evolving Skies
Date Reviewed: October 4, 2021
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Looks like Slaking from Evolving Skies is ready to do some pounding!
Initially, this would have been a decent stage 2 Single Strike Pokemon to build a deck around, but it does get crippled by its own ability. Before I get to the ability, its Rout attack, which costs three energy, does 120 damage plus 30 more damage for each of your opponent’s Benched Pokemon. Up against a full bench, it’ll do 270 damage. And that’s before including other damage boosting cards like Emboar and Single Strike Energy to eventually OHKO anything in the game with the right investment.
Unfortunately, as I said earlier, there is one thing that keep Slaking in check, and that is going to be it’s Act Freely ability, which states that if there is a Stadium card in play, this Pokémon cannot attack. This seriously cripple Slaking’s viability. You have to find a way to make abilities offline or to get rid of a Stadium card that’s already in play, and I don’t mean replacing it with another stadium card. I don’t think there’s any method to do that in Standard, but Expanded has Garbodor’s Garbotoxin and/or Field Blower to either shut off Slaking’s ability or to get rid of a Stadium card.
Although there are methods to work around Slaking’s drawback, the fact is that you’re devoting deck space to do that while you could have picked a different attacker that doesn’t have to deal with this ability. As such, I don’t think Slaking will see any play at all.
Before we start… I like Slaking. It isn’t my favorite Pokémon, but it is way up there, serving (for a time) as my stand-in for Snorlax in Gen III. We’re not reviewing it because someone has come up with a deck for it, we’re reviewing it because I like to have us review a Stage 2 Pokémon each week if it at least sort of works out… and yeah, this sort of worked out.
Slaking (SW – Evolving Skies 131/203) is not a Rule Box Pokémon. Nor does it have any name alterations, or any other uncommon mechanics except for having a Battle Style. Being a Single Strike Pokémon is a pretty significant bonus… even if Single Strike decks seem to almost be non-existent at the competitive level. Slaking has its customary [C] typing: after all, it is a pure Normal-Type in the video games. This is a net negative! While Slaking doesn’t have to worry about (natural) Resistance in Standard or Expanded, it will never encounter natural Weakness. [C] type support and counters exist in Expanded, but haven’t really done anything lately… while you’d be forgiven for forgetting Powerful [C] Energy exists in Standard, as it just hasn’t amounted to much.
Slaking is a Stage 2 Pokémon. You do have options for getting it into play without evolving, but even Single Strike Style Mustard can be demanding, let alone the even more obscure stuff. So, how about its lower Stages? The short version is that none of the Slakoth are overly impressive, though a few tempt my inner Johnny with impractical but potentially impressive combos. Your only Standard legal-option is Slakoth (SW – Evolving Skies 129/203), so you don’t have a choice, but its 70 HP and status as a Single Strike Pokémon also mean it is your best Expanded Format option as well. Vigoroth (SW – Evolving Skies 130/203) surprises by almost doing something good. Its first attack can do 20 while discarding whatever Stadium is in play, just for [C]…
…but you should also use Rare Candy. Vigoroth is really here just so you’re not as vulnerable to de-evolving, anti-Item effects, being bounced, etc. Speaking of bounce, Slaking is able to use Scoop Up Net and it has 180 printed HP. While small for a Basic Pokémon V, it is big for a single-Prize Pokémon… and relatively sturdy. The [F] Weakness is absolutely a concern: a Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX will gladly OHKO Slaking with either of its attacks enjoying a OHKO specifically due to Weakness. No Resistance would be a disappointment if it wasn’t the norm, while that Retreat Cost of [CCCC] is as bad as it gets. Wait, don’t I normally say [CCC] is worse? We lost all our support for Retreat Costs of [CCCC] at the last rotation, though they’re still an option in Expanded.
Slaking has one Ability and one attack. The former is “Act Freely”; if there is a Stadium in play, it can’t attack. Yeah, this is one of the intentionally detrimental Abilities in Pokémon. In Expanded, you could get around it by running something like Garbodor (BW – Dragons Exalted 54/124; BW – Plasma Freeze 119/116; BW – Legendary Treasures 68/113) or Garbodor (XY – BREAKpoint 57/122), there aren’t any tricks like that you can do in Standard while still having Slaking as your Active attacker. What you can do is use Pumpkaboo (SW – Evolving Skies 076/203) and/or Flannery to deal with your opponent’s Stadium cards… or even your own!
With an Ability that holds it back, Slaking needs a great attack to justify running it in your deck. “Rout” costs [CCC] and does 120 damage, plus 30 for each of your opponent’s Benched Pokémon. This might actually be good enough. While it requires three Energy, the all Colorless cost makes it compatible with most forms of Energy acceleration. That includes Twin Energy. In Expanded, you could cover the entire cost with Triple Acceleration Energy. Yes, 120 for three is only “kind of” decent under normal circumstances, but with how Rout works, you only do that low of damage if your opponent has no Bench. Lacking a Bench usually (but not always) means your opponent is in trouble. A small bench of one or two means Rout does decent 2HKO damage; not ideal for a Stage 2, but not worthless.
When you hit three or more, Rout is great! 210 damage OHKO’s more than just the abnormally small Basic Pokémon V. Even if your opponent’s Bench has one open spot, Rout does 240, so now all but the larger Basic Pokémon V go down in one hit. With a full five Pokémon on your opponent’s Bench, Rout does 270 damage, easily OHKOing anything that isn’t a Pokémon VMAX. Don’t forget this is a Single Strike Pokémon. Houndoom (SW – Battle Styles 096/163, 179/163, SW – Black Star Promos SWSH090) and Single Strike Energy means both Energy acceleration and extra damage, but also placing some damage counters on Slaking. Karen’s Conviction can also help, assuming your opponent has taken at least one Prize and you can spare your Supporter for the turn.
Do I think Single Strike Slaking decks are going to be big? No. Do I think they could be competitive? It is possible, but Slaking is probably more of a “fun” deck than something you’ll expect to topdeck at tournaments. Yes, I just listed off the many ways you can support it and push it to its limits in Standard but… that’s a lot of work to do what other decks come by more naturally. Plus, even if it turns out Rapid Strike Urshifu decks are on their way out, competitively speaking, it would still show up too often for Slaking’s sake. I mean, even without an explosive open, Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX can one-shot an Active Slaking. If it has the Energy for its second attack, it does that while also OHKOing anything with 120 or less HP… which includes Slakoth and Vigoroth. If you try to build on the Bench, then two Slakoth, or Vigoroth, or one of each bites the dust.
As for Expanded, it is a similar deal; so many more great combos available to it, but also so much more competition that does it better, and counters that aren’t even specific to it but which cause Slaking problems. I like Slaking, but I can’t in good conscience recommend it unless you also like Slaking and are more interested in trying something different than winning games.
- Standard: 2.00
- Expanded: 1.00
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