– Champion’s Path
October 9, 2020
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
It has been a long road, as this countdown was interspersed lead-in cards and honorable mentions, but we finally reach the number one card from this set: Wailord V (Champion’s Path 013/073)! As a Pokémon V, Wailord V is worth an extra Prize when KO’d, can’t take advantage of cards like Scoop Up, while running afoul of effects like the “Miraculous Charm” Ability of Altaria (Champion’s Path 049/073). However, this comes with many benefits as well: Wailord V is a Basic Pokémon (instead of a Stage 1 like baseline Wailord cards), might have stronger effects than usual, and has 280 HP… 280 HP! That is a new record for 2-Prize Pokémon, and the only Basic Pokémon which exceed it are Magikarp & Wailord-GX and Moltres & Zapdos & Articuno-GX.
Even the largest Pokémon VMAX only exceed it by 60 HP, but are worth another Prize when KO’d. You’re far from immortal with 280 HP, but this is a high threshold to clear for OHKO’s: some decks won’t be able to do it and several won’t be able to do it three times. Lightning types enjoy an edge, needing the comparatively low amount of 140 for a OHKO, thanks to Weakness. Lack of Resistance should be bad, but isn’t because it is so common and because Resistance so rarely makes a big difference. Wailord V’s Retreat Cost of [CCCC] means you’ll need help getting it out of the Active position, but at least it comes with access to cards like Buff Padding.
Wailord V knows two attacks. For [W], Wailord V can use “Draw Up” to attach up to three [W] Energy from your discard pile to itself. The second attack, “Ocean Wave”, requires [WWWW] and has you flip three coins, doing 120 damage per “heads”. Draw Up is a natural lead-in to Ocean Waves, and assuming you can attach the full three Water Energy from your discard pile, plus the Energy needed to pay for Draw Up in the first place, means your next turn’s attachment is free for something else. Ocean Waves has is pricey and flippy. There are some answers for both, but that’s still effort which could go towards something else. With three coin flips, there are a total of 16 possible outcomes:
I can’t say I’m thrilled with these odds. At a glance, it looks balanced… but remember, you’re paying four Energy for the privilege of having equal odds of doing 120- or 240+ damage. While it is nice the odds are good you’ll do at least 120 damage, all these results are possible regardless of the size of the Defending Pokémon. Maybe you’ll only flip big damage when you don’t need it, like when you’re KOing something small, or worse still, when you’re attacking into something like Sigilyph-GX! If you do care about averages, Ocean Waves’ mean damage is just 180, for an attack with no [C] requirements on a Basic Pokémon V. Ocean Waves isn’t bad, but don’t mistake it as being good, either.
Wailord V’s HP is amazing, and you can bump it up to 290 with Buff Padding or Cape of Toughness. It means using Draw Up to lead into Ocean Waves is plausible. You’ll need a lot of support, probably healing and disruption, but we’re talking about a deck with room for it. However, I’d be more inclined to try a stall/control build. You’ll need fewer Energy, but you can use Draw Up to attach two Energy that – next turn – you’ll discard to pay for Hyper Potion (among other tricks). The third option is something that should sound familiar from yesterday: Frosmoth and Glimwood Tangle. Assuming Frosmoth is in play, you can ready Wailord V in a single turn, though you’ll need a way to promote it into your Active Spot. Glimwood gives you a second chance to flip well for Ocean Waves, but you have to re-flip all the coins; not a problem when you flip three “tails” right away, but a big risk if you got two “heads” but really wanted three.
Yesterday, we looked at Drednaw VMAX. It is even harder to OHKO than Wailord V, but its an evolution and worth three Prizes when KO’d, not just two. Its Energy requirements are slightly less demanding, and it can’t hit as hard as Wailord V. Its “G-Max Headbutt” does a guaranteed 160 damage. At least, guaranteed before other card effects. On top of that, there’s a coin flip but it just adds 80 damage (if “heads”; “tails” still does the base 160). No crazy OHKO’s without exploiting Weakness, but more or less reliable 2HKO’s. Drednaw VMAX cannot attack to accelerate Energy, so I don’t know if it can do the whole stall/mill approach, but the Frosmoth build with or without Glimwood Tangle? Yeah, that should work for Drednaw VMAX.
Maybe they both exist as separate decks. Maybe one proves to be better, and crowds out the other. Maybe the trick is actually to run both, using whichever is better for that match-up; a Stage 1 Frosmoth line backing up a Basic and a VMAX line isn’t that demanding when it comes to deck space. This is all Theorymon at this point. What about Expanded? No “current” tournament results, but maybe Wailord-EX/Wailord V could be revived as a stall/control deck? Why both? Wailord V is bigger, but Wailord-EX can use Scoop Up Net and has a different Weakness (Grass). You’re probably not getting a chance to use Champion’s Path in Limited, but if you manage it, you’ve got a great pull. If you go with a Mulligan build, you have a decent chance of surviving long enough to power up and begin attacking for KO’s (coin flips permitting). Just remember, you probably won’t have [W] Energy in the discard pile, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get any of this set’s healing Trainers in your packs.
No, I’m not kidding. Even Wailord V is only getting a three-out-of-five. When I first saw it, I thought Wailord Stall decks were obviously going to come back… but then I remembered this isn’t 2015. I think it still has potential, but not enough to round up to a four-out-of-five. I think odds are good that Wailord V will become a meatshield for some deck some day, and may become a valuable bulky-but-flippy part of certain Water decks.
Sometimes, a Pokémon card only needs one niche to make it worth using, and the best card of Champion’s Path is Wailord-V! Looking at this card, this is actually the highest printed HP of a Pokémon-V that gives up two prizes. 280 HP is very, very high, and the fact that it doesn’t give up 3 prizes means that you can get some opportunities to let your “wall” tank some hits. The Lightning Weakness might be a concern, even if most of the Lightning based support has left rotation. And a retreat cost of CCCC means that Wailord-V can utilize Buff Padding to gain +50 HP, making it have 330 HP, and it is still worth two prizes! This could actually, in Expanded, outclass Wailord-EX completely, and Wailord-V actually has better attacks than the EX version, even though it’s unreliable.
Starting with Draw Up, it costs a single water energy and you get to fetch three more water energies from the discard pile onto itself, leading it’s next attack. Ocean Waves costs four water energies and makes you flip 3 coins. For each heads, you deal 120 damage. Flipping 2 heads might be sufficient to knock out most of the Basic Pokémon-V. However, against Tag Teams and VMAX Pokemon, you would need all three heads to KO anything before HP buffs. There are ways to improve your odds of getting a better result; for Standard, you have Glimwood Tangle; and for Expanded, you have Victory Star Victini from either BW Noble Victories or SM Guardians Rising and Trick Coin. Despite that, fishing for three heads every time is really pushing your luck. Wailord-V could be used as an attacker, but it’s bulk may be compromised.
But if attacking isn’t your style, then Wailord-V can just sit there tanking and healing. For Standard, Vaporeon-GX provides the most amount of healing if you have four of them in play, as it recovers 120 HP during your turn. A weaker, but cheaper alternative for Expanded would be Manaphy from SM Shining Legends, as it saves deck space as well as healing 80 damage if all four of them are in play. Suspicious Food Tin is another source of healing, but you need some amount of Psychic and/or Aurora energy in your deck, and it’ll heal 80 HP. Expanded, however, has Max Potion as the best healing item card if you don’t care about energy discard. Theoretically having a 330 HP body that can potentially heal as much as 200 HP every of the player’s turn?! 2HKOs are no longer a viable strategy in this case; you’ll need to either OHKO it or make it leave play.
Limited: N/A (would be 5/5 if it was an actual set that can be used in prereleases, but it’s not)
Conclusion: Wailord-V is an impressive card. For whatever success Wailord-EX previously had, you can now replace all of your Wailord-EX copies and put Wailord-V to make your deck an improved, bulkier version of Wailord, while also being allowed to play Green’s Exploration due to having no abilities and doesn’t care about ability denial or anti-ability Pokémon or Trainer cards. For Expanded, despite more options, I’ll be pretty leery with the Lightning weakness since a well built Lightning deck (with Electropower and other utility support for Lightning types) will OHKO Wailord in a flash, even with that much HP. But pretty much it’s the price you pay when using it, I still believe Wailord-V can see success in the future. If I were to chime in on Wailord-EX when it came out on XY Primal Clash, I would agree pretty much everything Otaku said back then, that being just a sturdy wall (that doesn’t attack) is enough to see competitive play.
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