Steelix V – Vivid Voltage
November 30, 2020
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Our next runner-up is Steelix V (SW – Vivid Voltage 115/185, 176/185). As a Pokémon V, Steelix V gives up an extra Prize when KO’d, cannot make use of beneficial cards like Scoop Up Net, and has to deal with counters like Decidueye (SW – Darkness Ablaze 013/189; SW – Black Star Promos SWSH035). In exchange, Steelix V gets to be a Basic, instead of a Stage 1 like baseline Steelix or Steelix-GX. It has a beefy 250 HP, enough to often survive a hit, though it is only 60 higher than Steelix (SM – Celestial Storm 89/168). Still, that’s 20 to 40 higher than most other, typical Basic Pokémon V. Steelix V is a [M] type. The good news? Metal has some great support, and already has competitive decks performing well in the metagame. The bad news? Those decks center around Zacian V, so Steelix V needs to compliment it or actually outperform it to earn its own place in the metagame.
Also, [M] Weakness isn’t overly common, though at least you only have to worry about [M] Resistance and anti-Metal effects in Expanded. [R] Weakness is dangerous; while Metal types have Coating [M] Energy to help, if you’re caught without it, an attack doing 130 damage before Weakness will still score a OHKO, and there are some very good Fire decks right now. [G] Resistance isn’t huge, but it is nice when you need to square off against something like Decidueye. The massive Retreat Cost of [CCCC] is too high to pay, but you should be able to manage it with switching effects. Potential silver-lining: you gain access to cards like Buff Padding and Poké Maniac.
Steelix V knows two attacks. Up first is “Raging Hammer” for [MC]. This attack lets Steelix V do 30 damage, plus another 10 per damage damage counter on itself. This means a base damage range of 30 to 270; that’s a fantastic high for just two Energy, but you’re not too likely to see it. A fresh Steelix V (no damage on it), does that minimal 30; the big numbers require you just barely survive the last time you were attacked. It is still decent if your opponent is slow in KOing Steelix V, but even 2HKO’s can rob you of your Prize if they’re properly staggered (lower damage attack first, higher damage attack second). Fortunately, Steelix V can use the many damage reducing tricks of Metal types to wall against weaker attackers, turn mid-level attackers into lightweights, and transform a few big attackers into 2HKO machines… instead of their intended OHKO approach.
Fortunately, Raging Hammer is not Steelix V’s only attack; the second is “Iron Tackle” fo [MCCCC]. This let’s Steelix V hit for 210 damage, enough to OHKO the low-end of typical, Basic Pokémon V. There is a catch besides the massive Energy cost; Steelix V will do 30 damage to itself. So, one use means it goes from its impressive 250 HP, to a decent 220. A second shot means Steelix V effectively has 190 HP, which would be low for a Basic Pokémon V. Are you likely to use Iron Tackle twice? No, but part of that is because it is difficult to use even just once! Five Energy is so massive, Iron Tackle should really be hitting harder, or just not do any self-damage. Better still, it should just be a less expensive attack, even if the self-damage was higher to compensate.
What about the synergy between the two attacks? There isn’t as much as there appears to be, I am afraid. Yes, the self-damage from Iron Tackle can feed into Raging Hammer, but that only matters if you survive long enough to fuel and use Iron Tackle, then survive through your opponent’s next turn to finally go for a big Raging Hammer finish. With Raging Hammer being the less expensive, attack, however, it is the one with which you would most likely want to lead. The good news is that this means you can try to use Raging Hammer on its own, accepting the initial weak amount of damage, then try to tank long enough to get a few progressively better and better swings out of it.
I think Steelix V has a better calling that that, however; meat shield. While it lacks the 280 HP of Wailord V, and has a worse Weakness, you can toss a Steelix V up front with Metal Goggles, and just let it soak some damage. Ideally, instead of it going down swinging, you’ll Bench it and bring something else out: either another meat shield (if stalling), or an attacker you built while Steelix V was paying it dues up front. If you can heal or bounce it, great, and if you can’t… well, your opponent will already want to finish it off for two Prizes but they have reason to fear it. A Metal Saucer and manual Energy attachment mean you can finally make good use of Raging Hammer.
The Expanded Format has a lot more going for Steelix V than the Standard Format, but I’m not sure if it is enough extra to make a difference, given the added competition Steelix V faces. Acerola and AZ make bouncing Steelix V easier. There are methods of Energy acceleration that make using Iron Tackle plausible, but still probably not worth it. Where Steelix V can truly shine is in the Limited Format. You can run this in a Mulligan build, but I’m a bit worried; if you’re not taking damage, Raging Hammer is probably taking three turns to KO something. Which means your opponent can go down a Prize or two to build some massive attackers on their Bench, and basically trade the first one, then win with the second one. On the other hand, as long as you can work a few basic Metal Energy into it, any non-Mulligan deck should be happy to have a Steelix V as a fallback attacker… or opening tank.
Steelix V doesn’t look bad, but I’m not sure if it looks really good. Both attacks are more expensive than I’d like, because being a meat shield seems like the card’s calling. Except it also has to attack, because even with the advantages of being a Metal type, its hard to recommend this over Wailord V… not that Wailord V has been proven yet, either. Steelix V did come somewhat close to making my own list for the countdown, but in the end, I couldn’t see enough reason to run this instead of or alongside Zacian V. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think the deck needs a Pokémon V meat shield.
Note: Vince had this as his 9th-Place pick in our Top 15 Countdown.
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