– Darkness Ablaze
September 22, 2020
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Spikemuth (SW – Darkness Ablaze 170/189) is a Trainer-Stadium. This means that you can play it to discard an opponent’s Stadium, and that it will stick around until acted on by another card’s effect, or by your opponent playing another Stadium to the field. Stadium cards typically have effects that apply equally to both players… at least when we ignore the timing of turns, the contents of each player’s deck, their current setup, etc. When those are factored in, a seemingly “neutral” Stadium can be very one-sided. You’re only allowed to play a single Stadium per turn, and you cannot play a Stadium that shares a name with one already in play. Spikemuth’s specific effect is that, during a player’s turn, whenever their Active Pokémon moves to the Bench, that player places two damage counters on that Pokémon.
This is one of those effects that can be very misleading. First, notice that Spikemuth doesn’t do anything to a player during the opponent’s turn; your opponent cannot use Boss’s Orders (for example) to not only force something else Active, but place two damage counters on the former Active. Second, remember that extra damage counters only matter when you’re using them to trigger (or avoid triggering) an effect, or when they affect how many turns it takes to score a KO. Third, exactly how much this will affect a deck will vary according to that deck’s strategy… including decks that may be able to take advantage of the damage counters being placed on that player’s Pokémon.
Put it all together, and you have a card with a lot of potential, but not a lot of initial punch. Remember, stuff is having two damage counters placed on it while heading to the (relative) safety of the Bench. Pretend you had Spikemuth available when Zapdos (SM – Team Up 40/181; SM – Black Star Promos SM159) decks backed by Jirachi (SM – Team Up 99/181; SM – Black Star Promos SM161) were a strong, strong play. This is a situation where your opponent is going to run afoul of Spikemuth at least once per turn. However, will the damage matter? Zapdos has 110 HP; if your attack isn’t exploiting Weakness or crashing into Resistance, 90 and 100 damage effectively score a OHKO where as they would not have without Spikemuth’s effect. Attacks already doing 110+ still score the OHKO, and attacks doing 80 or less still fall short.
In this same situation, what about Spikemuth’s effect eventually KOing your opponent’s Jirachi? It isn’t being left up front (most of the time) so Spikemuth means you can focus on attacking other things, but eventually, that Jirachi will fall! This is true but even with only 70 HP, Jirachi has to move from the Active Spot to your opponent’s Bench four times before it gets KO’d. This does matter, but in one of the best-case matchups for Spikemuth, one it probably will never encounter in competitive play, it still takes a long time (and probably multiple copies of the Stadium) to finally add up. There’s also the fact your opponent is in control; they can weigh whether they should dial-back on their Jirachi use, or just push ahead because they’ll win fast enough for the damage not to matter.
I realize Zapdos/Jirachi is an obsolete deck with next to no hope of making a comeback; it was just a handy example for the kind of deck where Spikemuth would activate a lot, and might even take Prizes apart from you attacking something it injured. The situation would be even more favorable if we had something worth multiple Prizes, shaving down its HP so that it is KO’d a turn sooner. The thing is, against the average deck, the situation is likely less favorable. You may be able to skew things more in your favor through strategic use of Boss’s Orders, or though running an attacker that attacks the Bench, or both the Bench and your opponent’s Active. I think your best bet, however, is finding a deck that wants a little damage on its own Pokémon.
I do not have a proven, contemporary deck I can use as an example, unfortunately. I can spitball something at least. How about Spiritomb (SM – Unbroken Bonds 112/214) decks? I don’t know if Spiritomb can hit the damage needed in the modern metagame, but given I need to explain how Spikemuth helps and not work out what you should use in your next tournament, I hope you can give me some wiggle room here. Spiritomb’s “Anguish Cry” does 10 damage plus 30 per damage counter on (that) Spiritomb. It can place a damage counter on itself once per turn through its Ability, and Spikemuth can help you get another two on it. Anguish Cry is only hitting for 100 damage at that point… but what if this isn’t the first turn that Spiritomb was in play? Seems like Spikemuth might be a decent way to get the last two damage counters on a Spiritomb, so it is doing 160 damage with Anguish Cry… or if you can really time it well, you’re moving some damage counters around and shifting them all to a Spiritomb with Cape of Toughness attached, so that Anguish Cry now maxes out at 310 damage.
I haven’t heard of anyone doing that, and at the very least, no one used it in the Players Cup Finals and made top 16. Again, though, we’re not looking for the next top archetype: I just needed an example to illustrate how one might be able to leverage Spikemuth’s effect damaging one’s own Pokémon. The Expanded Format has a lot more competition (in the form of existing, competitive decks), and a lot more counters (cards that can wreck Spikemuth or the strategies using it), but it also has a lot more combos. Nothing huge, but enough to avoid minimum marks from me. In the Limited Format, yes you run Spikemuth. There are two other Stadium cards, and you need an option for discarding them in case they’re far more useful to your opponent than yourself. If you can actually capitalize on the damage counters Spikemuth might generate, even better. Just try not to let it backfire!
Spikemuth is a combo piece waiting for the right deck to come along. That may never happen, but it is worth remembering this as a way to get extra damage counters, potentially on either side of the field.
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