– Sword & Shield
February 13, 2020
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
It is Thursday, but as we’re in the middle of a countdown, we don’t have a Throwback review, looking at something from the game’s past. It is, however, another new card and effect that seem awfully familiar. PlusPower. Strength Charm. Muscle Band. Fighting Fury Belt. They’re now joined by our 7th-place pick Vitality Band (Sword & Shield 185/202) could almost fake it. The new Pokémon Tool has a straightforward effect: the attacks of the Pokémon to which it is attached do an extra 10 damage. The damage boost is before Weakness and Resistance, and only applies when damaging your opponent’s Active. I wasn’t expecting a bonus to Bench damage, but it is nice that any attackers which do self-damage don’t have to worry about Vitality Band spiking it.
Damage buffs are such a simple thing, and yet I think they are also so easily misunderstood. Hitting harder is better, right? Not really. If you commit resources to do more damage but you’re not
then you’re doing yourself a disservice by wasting resources. You may even run into a card that hits you harder based on the damage you did to them, in which case “overkill” can backfire even worse! Vitality Band’s +10 damage is great where it matters. Some decks were already running cards to do or fake doing an extra 10 damage, and those cards were either more deck specific or more costly, such as Fighting Stadium. Even decks already using other buffs may still want to add Vitality Band to the stack.
At the same time, though, understand you need to weigh your options, and including cards that ultimately improve your offense but don’t seem like damage buffs. Big Charm is a good example of this. A Tool which grants the equipped Pokémon +30 HP. The same numbers game as with damage increases apply with defensive buffs, only they are a little more vulnerable to being countered, as the defensive buff usually doesn’t matter until after the turn it was played. Big Charm does provide three times increase to HP that Vitality Band provides to damage, and with the current cardpool? That may really matter. I still haven’t seen a lot of the winning Japanese lists, from the time period when they’ve had the cards we just received in Sword & Shield. From what I have seen, Big Charm beats out Vitality Band. Air Balloon probably does as well, but Big Charm actually has a way of faking being an offensive buff. How?
Something that survives an extra turn can attack an extra turn, assuming it has the needed Energy. No, this doesn’t always apply, but it seems to be a factor right now. This doesn’t mean Vitality Band is bad; it is still quite good. You should be testing it out in most decks, to see if that +10 damage makes the difference because it will in some cases! At least, in Standard that is how it ought to go; in Expanded, any Pokémon can use Muscle Band to do +20 damage to anything else. There is probably some complicated scenario where you’d only want to do +10 instead, but for the most part, Vitality Band doesn’t matter in Expanded. For the Limited Format, definitely take and run it; when it matters it will be amazing, and you’ll probably have space in your deck for it.
Vitality Band is a Tool that will definitely affect the metagame in Standard, but I get more of a “Strength Charm 2.0” vibe from it than “the new Muscle Band.” It is one of the card’s that temps me to add half-points back into my scores. I had it as my 15th-place pick, specifically because only one out of the dozen or so high finishing Japanese decks for which I had results and lists included it. I am assuming it will see at least a little more play than that, but even if those results were something of a fluke and soon most decks will be running Vitality Band, I don’t think it needed to be any higher on our list; there are more than six cards from Sword & Shield that will have a bigger effect on the game.
Details: Our 7th best card of Sword & Shield might not be a Throwback, but it does give a feel of a familiar card back in early 2014.
Vitality Band is a Pokémon Tool card and it lets any Pokemon deal 10 more damage to the Defending Pokémon. Although not much, that could sometimes make certain attacks land OHKOs or 2HKOs that it would otherwise fall short of without that Tool. Damage boosting cards almost always land on most of the countdowns for good reason, though I’m a bit surprised that it was ranked much lower than previous damage boosting cards. I guess there’s too much competition against other useful Pokémon Tool cards and that it may or may not help you reach certain thresholds. There’s also lack of tool removal besides Faba, so while you could benefit from Vitality Band, other passive Pokémon Tool cards also gain the spotlight. The new artifact in town is Big Charm, also from the Sword & Shield set, which raises the Max HP by 30, outclassing Giant Cape (from BW Dragons Exalted) completely. That HP gain actually makes Vitality Band fall short of 2HKOs if you’re barely reaching the 2HKO threshold. Seems like you need 2HKO plus overkill so the the HP that was increased or healed becomes irrelevant. Nonetheless, Vitality Band is a welcome sight in the format it’s entering.
Unfortunately, Vitality Band has ALMOST no business in Expanded because Muscle Band outclasses it completely! There are a few exceptions for when you don’t want to boost that much damage. One might worry that an attack that’s gonna do 160 originally is on a dilemma to determine if the Defending Pokémon has an Giant Bomb from Unified Minds attached you it. Muscle Band will trigger Giant Bomb as it increases the damage from 160 to 180, but Vitality Band avoids triggering a Giant Bomb as it only does 170. Taking 100 damage from Giant Bomb is almost NEVER worth dealing 20 or even 10 extra damage unless you are really sure your damaged Pokémon is safe from retaliation. Although a legitimate concern, they don’t amount to much, so players will still swap their Vitality Bands with Muscle Bands, and vice versa. Reliable Tool removal exists in Expanded, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’ve already dealt extra damage before they even get a chance to remove it.
Vitality Band isn’t the most demanding card out there unlike Muscle Band back then, but the option is still there, and perhaps the only reliable damaging boosting card in the Ultra Prism-on format (Hustle Belt doesn’t count). Some cards that have a simple effect and not a lot of text can cause a huge influence in the meta; just look at Switch or even Potion!
It wouldn’t be a new era of Pokemon or a Top X List without some kind of Band on it.
Vitality Band joins the ranks of Choice Band and Muscle Band as another Tool that you can attach to your Pokemon to boost the damage it does. Probably the biggest difference though is that it only does an extra 10 damage, which when comparing to Muscle Band’s flat 20 damage boost and Choice Band’s 30 damage (though only on Pokemon-EX/GX), it’s not that great.
But why would we put discount-Muscle Band on the list? Because that 10 damage MATTERS a LOT!! If anything, it’s because of Muscle Band having been introduced that we consider damage-boosting effects like this so valuable – just look at Martial Arts Dojo as a prime example in recent history where it made 10 damage matter, and now you don’t even have to run a Stadium to get the effect. It’s what makes certain attacks land on those crucial numbers for victory! It gives you the extra boost to get that 2HKO!
I mean what else needs to be said? Vitality Band is going to see play, and there’s not much anyone can do about it.
Standard: 5/5 (absolutely a must-run in many decks)
Expanded: 2/5 (I only rate it so low here because Muscle Band is better most of the time)
Limited: 5/5 (every bit helps here!)
Arora Notealus: Vitality Band brings the damage-boosting Band Item back into Standard, and while it’s weaker than previous versions, it’s still going to be a big part of the metagame. That valuable 10 damage boost is very good for many reasons, the biggest of which is closing in on securing those necessary KOs that are so crucial. There may be some decks that won’t bother with it – Pidgeotto Control strikes me as a deck that wouldn’t worry about using Vitality Band as much as worrying about it being used against it. But for the most part, many decks are going to try it out, and it’ll absolutely perform to everyone’s expectations.
Next Time: Another old effect returns in a new form!
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