Surprise! Time Machine
– Team Rocket Returns
March 21, 2019
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
We’re taking a break from Detective Pikachu cards because it’s time for a Throwback Thursday! Though it may not seem like it, we’re continuing a series of reviews that should finally make some sense after next week… unless you already know where this is going. Surprise! Time Machine (EX – Team Rocket Returns 91/109) is an old Trainer-Item… though at the time it would have just been referred to as a “normal Trainer”. Unless someone wanted to reference its status as a “Rocket’s Secret Machine”; there were three cards with effects (all beneficial) that specifically referenced them: Dark Slowking (EX – Team Rocket Returns 9/109), Rocket’s Meowth (EX – Team Rocket 46/109), and Wobbuffet (EX – Team Rocket 47/109). Rocket’s Secret Machines had some nifty tricks, with one of them – Pokémon Retriever ( EX – Team Rocket Returns 84/109) – being Rescue Stretcher but with a different name, clunkier wording, and counting as a Rocket’s Secret Machine.
Surprise! Time Machine lets you select one of your Evolved Pokémon in play, take the highest Stage of Evolution on it, shuffle just that card into your deck, which counts as devolving that Pokémon (so it couldn’t immediately re-Evolve naturally). Of course, it shouldn’t often need to re-evolve naturally, because the effects only half done; as long as the newly devolved Pokémon wasn’t KO’d by its maximum HP score dropping, Surprise! Time Machine lets you then search your deck for an Evolution card which evolves from that Pokémon and play it directly onto that freshly devolved Pokémon. Which counts as evolving it from your deck, for any effects which would be triggered, and means you doubly cannot manually evolve the final product. Now, why would you want to do this? This gives you access to either another version of that Pokémon OR member of a branched Evolution-line immediately while retaining all attached cards (including Energy) and damage counters BUT ditching any effects that would be removed through devolving or evolving (like Special Conditions). Note how it says nothing about the Evolution you fetch from your deck needing to be different…
Surprise! Time Machine dates back to a time when not only would you have any branching Evolution-lines from Gen III and earlier, but you’d also have
The former are the predecessors of both Pokémon-EX and Pokémon-GX, but despite having a name that looks like the former they have more in common with the latter: just subtract about 15 years worth of power creep and do not give it a GX-attack. That includes being unable to use certain kinds of support and facing certain kinds of counters because of being a Pokémon-ex. Dark Pokémon can be confusing; I don’t mean [D] a.k.a. Darkness Type Pokémon, but Pokémon with “Dark” in their names, which were supposed to represent the corruptive influence of working with a Trainer who was part of Team Rocket. Though by this point, most of them were also [D] Types or dual-Types (with [D] Typing added to the appropriate TCG Typing); this further emphasized the influence their Trainers had on them and helped balance out the distribution of Types in the Pokémon TCG. There just weren’t as many [D] Types as most others in the TCG at the time, and about a year later, the δ Species mechanic was introduced – Pokémon which were the wrong TCG Typing – to balance things out even more, especially by bumping up how many [M] Type Pokémon were in the game.
Getting back to Surprise! Time Machine, while things like Rocket’s Pokémon, Team Aqua’s Pokémon, and Team Magma’s Pokémon all had completely separate Evolution-lines from their baseline counterparts, Dark Pokémon Evolve from a “regular” version of the appropriate Basic e.g. the above mentioned Dark Slowking Evolves from a plain Slowpoke. Now remember the slower pacing of the game at this point; while still a relatively fast experience, most fully-evolved Pokémon were likely to survive an attack, sometimes even two. If you used some healing before Surprise! Time Machine or – more likely – just used it before your opponent could do much damage to the Pokémon in question, you created a variable assault… or defense. Something with a protective or disruptive effect could be in play (even Active) and you could shift to something with better offensive capabilities. The reverse is true as well; if you’re taking a pounding, you might be able to change to something a little more durable, assuming you could survive devolving.
Though I was quite fond of this card, I’m glad I didn’t have to rate it because, while I remember using it fondly in many decks, when I glanced at some of the World Championship Theme Decks from this time, I could only find one – an Eeveelutions based deck – running it! The score for Limited may be optimistic, but since it can fake being a Full Heal, I thought it still worth it; Special Conditions are nasty in Limited Format play.
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