Surfing Pikachu VMAX – Celebrations
October 11, 2021
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
If you skipped Sunday’s review, this week we’re counting down the best cards from Celebrations! Well, the best new cards, the ones that will be legal for use in Standard and Expanded; the vintage reprints that span the entire life of the game will provide us with some nice Throwback Thursdays, but won’t be showing up on this list. Celebrations is a “bonus” set, meaning it lacks the “SW” prefix that the quarterly set releases enjoy, so we’ll have another countdown in a few weeks, as SW – Fusion Strike is just over a month away from releasing! I expect the next set to dramatically affect the metagame… but Celebrations seems to be a Collector/casual purchaser-oriented set.
Surfing Pikachu VMAX (Celebrations 009/025) may seem odd to players unfamiliar with the classic era of either the video games or the Trading Card Game. Even I am unsure of its exact origins, as there’s an episode of the anime (“The Pi-Kahuna) with it that I saw before finding out it was in Pokémon Yellow… but checking Japanese air dates, the game released before the episode by about a month. Either project has significant lead time, but a single episode or a small section of the game could be a later addition to the overall project. What I can tell you is that some form of “Surfing Pikachu” can be found in a decent amount of core and side games, other Pokémon media sources, and has existed in the TCG in the form of Surfing Pikachu (WotC Black Star Promos 28; PL – Rising Rivals 114/111; XY – Evolutions 111/108) and the Japanese promo Playing In The Sea Pikachu (392/SM-P).
Surfing Pikachu VMAX is a Rule Box Pokémon, but either unaffected or unlikely to make use of the few cards that specifically reference Rule Box Pokémon in their effects. Being a Pokémon VMAX means Surfing Pikachu VMAX gives up three Prizes when KO’d, has to deal with anti-VMAX effects, but gains access to VMAX support, will have a massive HP score (300+), and might have better effects than you’d expect. Pokémon VMAX are still Pokémon V, so all the beneficial effects that exclude them and detrimental effects that target them still apply to Surfing Pikachu VMAX. VMAX is also a Stage of evolution, in addition to being a multi-Prize mechanic. Think of them like Stage 1 Pokémon that don’t count as Stage 1 Pokémon; general evolution support and counts apply, but not Stage 1 specific stuff. There’s a similar amount of effort in running them, however.
Surfing Pikachu is a [L] type. This is good for exploiting Weakness, at least in Standard, as almost all [W] types are [L] Weak. Lightning has some good support but most of it doesn’t apply to Surfing Pikachu VMAX, or can work for it but not efficiently (Speed [L] Energy). Surfing Pikachu VMAX has 310 HP; just 10 over the minimum for a Pokémon VMAX but still a tricky amount to one shot. Even Fighting types, which do double damage due to Surfing Pikachu VMAX’s [F] Weakness, need to do 160 before Weakness to score a OHKO. No Resistance is typical: technically the worst, but most cards don’t have it and Resistance is far less influential than Weakness. The Retreat Cost of [C] is nice and low.
Surfing Pikachu VMAX knows just one attack, “Max Surfer”. Priced at [WWW], it does 160 damage to your opponent’s Active and 30 to each of your opponent’s Benched Pokémon. If your opponent has little to no Bench, this is a bit underwhelming, but if they have a big Bench, that’s a lot of damage spread. Max Surfer can 2HKO most Pokémon, at least just going by printed HP scores (effects add several exceptions). Surfing Pikachu VMAX cannot make use of something like Frosmoth, but you can use Melony on Surfing Pikachu V, from which Surfing Pikachu VMAX evolves. Speaking of Surfing Pikachu V, it is a Basic Pokémon V with the same typing, Weakness, (lack of) Resistance, and Retreat Cost as Surfing Pikachu VMAX. It has 200 HP, a little low for a Basic Pokémon V, and can use “Surf” to do 150 damage to your opponent’s Active for [WWW]. Not a good Basic from which to evolve, but also not bad. Pretty typical, save for lacking a second – mostly filler – attack.
I didn’t think much of Surfing Pikachu VMAX when I first saw it, but you probably can make a half-decent deck using it. Probably with something like Inteleon (SW – Chilling Reign 043/198; SW – Black Star Promos SWSH113; SW – Evolving Skies 227/203). Inteleon has proven to be a great Bench-sitter in a variety of decks, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t here. You can either use its Ability to place damage counters on your opponent’s Active, all but ensuring a 2HKO and sometimes scoring OHKO’s even on typical, Basic Pokémon V (provided you have three of that Inteleon on your Bench). Or you can use it so that anything not big quickly dies from accumulated Bench damage.
You can also probably do something similar in Expanded, with other tricks (like moving around that Bench damgae) available. However, there are many more counters and alternatives, and Surfing Pikachu VMAX’s 310 HP actually is a bit easier to OHKO. Still, when I dismissed this card as filler, it seems like Surfing Pikachu VMAX is good-average in Standard, and has enough potential I’ll even award it more than minimal marks in Expanded. If it wasn’t clear, no, I didn’t have this on my list, but it probably makes more sense than my own 5th-Place pick (Xerneas).
- Standard: 3/5
- Expanded: 2/5
Our sixth place finisher is Surfing Pikachu VMAX.
Yup, you read that right.
So, in case anyone is not familiar with “Surfing” Pikachu, it’s a Pikachu with a Surfboard, and with that, grants the ability to learn Surf under special circumstances. Eventually in the core-series games of Sword & Shield, Pikachu and its Evolutions can finally learn Surf via TR04. In terms of the TCG, you could consider Surfing Pikachu VMAX to be both a spiritual successor AND an upgrade.
Surfing Pikachu (Wizards Black Star Promo 28, Platinum Rising Rivals 114/111, XY Evolutions 111/108) was a baseline card. It is a Basic Lightning type with 50 HP, Fighting Weakness, a retreat cost of one, and its Surf attack, which costs 2 Water Energies for 30 damage. The spiritual successor was made into a Pokémon-V card, in which case, turned into Surfing Pikachu-V, a Basic Lightning type with 200 HP, fighting weakness, a retreat cost of one, and its own version of its Surf attack, which cost 3 water energies for 150 damage.
For today’s card, Surfing Pikachu VMAX evolves from Surfing Pikachu-V, and it is a VMAX Lightning type with 310 HP, fighting weakness, a retreat cost of one, and the Max Surfer attack which costs WWW for 160 damage while also doing 30 damage to each of your opponent’s Benched Pokémon. Max Surfer is arguably better than Surf, and as such, should be evolving that Pikachu to be better. Based on the attack cost, it would be a nice addition in decks using water energies, but I’m not sure how much mileage you’ll get by adding Surfing Pikachu VMAX. While it may help exploit Lightning weakness found on most Water and colorless types, it won’t benefit from Frosmoth at all because it’s ability only enables unlimited water attachments to benched water Pokemon, not Lightning types. For Expanded, you got Deluge Blastoise that can actually attach water energies to anyone. While Thunder Mountain (*) won’t help at all, Electropower can help you reach certain thresholds for certain OHKOs.
Overall, it’s an interesting card that needs energy types that are different than their original type. However, the original debut of Surfing Pikachu didn’t see much competitive play, so I wonder if Surfing Pikachu VMAX changes things.
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