Smeargle – Evolving Skies
August 27, 2021
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
It’s countdown time again! This is only the fifth review since we finished covering the best cards lost to the 2022 Standard Format Rotation, but today is the official release date for the latest expansion, SW – Evolving Skies! If you’re interested in the method behind the madness, we’ve got an article explaining our approach to these countdowns here. If you just want the Cliff Notes version, each member of the CotD crew (currently just Vince and myself) submit our list of the best cards in the set. I then combine them to make the site’s list. Lately, I’ve been aiming for Top 15s because of the size of late SM-era and modern SW-era expansions. Please note that this is 100% Theorymon on my part. I didn’t have Japanese tournament (or even informal) play results, I didn’t have a chance to test these cards out on my own. Also note that I’ll be reviewing for the Standard and Expanded Formats as of September 10th, which is when the 2022 rotation takes effect. These cards won’t be Standard-legal until then.
15th-Place goes to Smeargle (SW – Evolving Skies 128/203)! This is a true baseline Pokémon: no Rule Box, no Battle Style, no name alterations, nothing like that. That means no tapping the support for those different things, but also no worrying about their counters or built-in complications (like giving up extra Prizes). Smeargle is a Colorless Pokémon, which is a drawback as you never have the chance of attacking into Weakness. Yes, they have Powerful [C] Energy, don’t have to worry about Resistance, and only face counters in Expanded, but Weakness is a broken mechanic in the TCG, so missing out on it hurts. Smeargle is a Basic Pokémon, requiring minimal effort to run and field, and naturally working better with certain mechanics (like bounce).
Smeargle has 80 HP, low enough you can fetch it with Level Ball and recycle it with Rescue Carrier, but also low enough to be easily OHKO’d while Active, and even vulnerable on your Bench thanks to the amount of spread, Bench hits, and bonus Bench hits we have in the current metagame. [F] Weakness almost doesn’t matter, because Smeargle is already so likely to be OHKO’d. Almost because [F] types often hit hard and fast, so it is a little more likely here that something will do a quick and dirty 40/50/60/70 damage and score a OHKO they would have otherwise missed. No Resistance is the worst Resistance, but not only is having none normal, but with 80 HP it wouldn’t likely matter. The Retreat Cost of [C] is good; usually easy to pay and recover from having paid.
Smeargle only knows one attack, “Live Painting”. For [CC], Live Painting lets you reveal any number of basic Energy cards from your hand, doing 30 damage plus another 30 per different basic Energy type among the cards you just revealed. [CC] is a relatively low Energy cost. While you’ll want to have many different basic Energy cards in hand, that isn’t too bad. Live Painting can do from 30 to 270 base damage in Standard, or 30 to 300 in Expanded. If you’re wondering why it is different between the two, remember that basic Fairy Energy cards are no longer Standard-legal. This amount of damage output isn’t enough to OHKO everything. Going by printed HP scores, though, it is enough to OHKO everything Standard-legal that is smaller than Wailord V!
Smeargle is a glass cannon, but it will require some setup. Twin Energy can cover the cost of Live Painting but you’re going to be running a lot of basic Energy cards in this deck, so it may not be the best choice. The good news is that you don’t need a lot of each basic Energy card. Probably just two or three, to limit how likely some is to be trapped in your Prizes. If you’re not trying to OHKO Basic Pokémon V, even that is less of a concern; having five of the eight Standard-legal basic Energy types is enough to 2HKO anything and OHKO most single-Prize targets, at least if we just go by printed HP scores. While getting all those basic Energy cards into hand will require some doing, as long as neither you nor your opponent mess with your hand, Smeargle can be OHKO’d and the next copy can take its place.
So, how do you prep for it? Eldegoss (SW – Evolving Skies 016/203) has an Ability that lets you add two basic Energy cards from your deck to your hand. It is a once-per-turn-per-instance kind of Ability, but even just one of them is +60 damage. The Trainer game for getting basic Energy cards into your hand is… not great in Standard. Gone are the days when we had Supporters like Lady, who could add a guaranteed four basic Energy cards into your hand. Or Energy Spinner, so that you could add three basic Energy cards to your hand via an Item on Turn 2 (Player 2’s first turn). At least we still have Energy Search, and in case some stuff hits the discard pile, Energy Retrieval. I suppose Gordie is worth mentioning. It is a new Supporter that lets you look at the top seven cards of your deck, then add any basic Energy you find there to your hand… but I think I’d rather run more Energy recovery options and just use Professor Juniper.
That might sound foolhardy, because your opponent just has to use Marnie to mess with your hand, potentially dropping you to zero basic Energy cards in hand… but the raw draw power available should be enough protection from that. Just two Eldegoss mean you can reliably attack with Live Painting to do 150 damage, at least so long as there are four (or more) different basic Energy cards still left in your deck. Coming back to actually paying for Live Painting, I already mentioned Twin Energy, but in a deck already running so many basic Energy cards, that might be too much Energy. Additional options are Turbo Patch and/or Exp. Share. If you have room, even all three might be a good idea. I think that Smeargle has a solid chance at joining the ranks of “single Prize attacker” or “No Rule Box” decks. In both Formats: it faces more competition and counters in Expanded, but also has much better support. This was good enough for it to just make my top 15, and also to make the site list.
- Standard: 3/5
- Expanded: 3/5
Editor’s Note: Vince had Smeargle (SW – Evolving Skies 128/203) as his 13th-Place pick.
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