Zapdos – Vivid Voltage
Date Reviewed: March 12, 2021
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Zapdos (SW – Vivid Voltage 048/185) is not a Pokémon V or any other non-baseline Pokémon. The card’s Lightning typing comes in handy, though much more in Expanded than in Standard. As a Basic Pokémon, Zapdos requires minimal effort to run, and its 110 HP is decent; I’m more appreciative of only surviving weaker attacks when the initial investment (and payout of Prizes) are lower. [L] Weakness only matters when facing such attacks, but it is also enough that Zapdos’ [F] Resistance could matter. Lightning Types have been a major part of the metagame, but Fighting types not so much. The Retreat Cost of [C] is nice and low; easy to pay and recover from having paid.
Zapdos knows two attacks. The first is “Drill Peck” for [C], doing 20 damage. This is almost pure filler; still, better to be able to do a tiny bit of damage for one of any Energy than not having a second attack at all. “Thunder Snipe” is the focus of Zapdos, but fully explaining it required running through the rest of the card. [LLC] pays for 160 damage, but only to one of your opponent’s Pokémon-GX or Pokémon V. The attack lets you choose whether to hit something in the Active or on the Bench, not applying Weakness or Resistance for the latter. However, I left a piece out: you must discard all Energy from Zapdos when using Thunder Snipe.
Even though it comes with two substantial drawbacks, Thunder Snipe is a decent attack. Discarding all Energy sounds harsh, but Zapdos is a 110 HP Basic; the assumption is your opponent will take it out immediately after it attacks, so any attached Energy would have ended up in the discard pile anyway. Especially Thunder Snipe is important because it can hit your opponent’s Bench; if your opponent has a ready attacker Active, they still will after your attack. Not being able anything except for Pokémon-GX and Pokémon V is a bigger concern; you can try and leverage Zapdos against multi-Prize targets, but you cannot trade it for another single-Prize Pokémon.
What you can do is use Zapdos to finish off or soften up any multi-Prize attacker in Standard, and one-shot an opponent’s Dedenne-GX in either Format. If you can afford a little more room for Telescopic Sight, Thunder Snipe can also one-shot Crobat V, Eldegoss V, Oricorio-GX and the soon-to-release Kricketune V. Another alternative is Galarian Zigzagoon (Sword & Shield 117/202; Shining Fates SV078/SV122): a deck running just one of them can still one-shot Oricorio-GX, while two (or one with a Scoop Up Net) bring the others into range. So, is this a must-run for Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks? In a word? Nope. While it seems like a natural fit, you can look through the recent, official tournament results here and you’ll notice a distinct lack of Zapdos, while Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks did well for themselves.
I believe there are a few reasons for this. One simple one is that we have Boss’s Orders, that lets you fake a Bench hit by forcibly promoting your opponent’s Benched Pokémon into the Active position. Then there’s Cramorant V, which does almost the exact same thing as Zapdos, but better. The only drawback to using Cramorant V instead of Zapdos is the former is a Pokémon V and is Colorless. The tradeoff is substantial; 90 more HP, a better “filler” attack, [CCC] instead of [LLC] for the sniping attack, and it can hit anything your opponent has for 160 (Cramorant V still discards all of its Energy). Being compatible with more forms of Energy acceleration and being able to snipe single-Prize Bench-sitters really helps with the “gives up an extra Prize” thing.
For better and worse, Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks can already take a potshot at one opposing Benched Pokémon, through its “Tag Bolt-GX” attack. Yes, you’re burning your GX-attack. Yes, it costs a lot of Energy, but if you can force something with 200 HP (or less) into your opponent’s Active spot while another target on the Bench has 170 HP (or less)… well… that’s one of the reasons Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks are so good. In all of these cases, as well as the Expanded Format, there is another problem: Bench protection. I’ll only bother naming Mew (SM – Unbroken Bonds 76/214; SM – Black Star Promos SM215), but there are others that reduce or completely block (as is the case with Mew) the damage Thunder Snipe can do to Benched Pokémon.
Speaking of Expanded, Thunder Snipe has just enough promise here that I won’t award the card minimal scores. It is the usual shtick: more competition and counters but more combo potential. There are more methods of Energy acceleration, and ways to counter other counters. It can be a complicated mess, and I have not heard of any Expanded decks making good use of Zapdos, but there also hasn’t been any major Expanded Format tournaments in over a year. Assuming there’s nothing for Zapdos to do right now, it still has potential as long as there are enough (or any relevant) Pokémon-GX or Pokémon V it can snipe.
- Standard: 2/5
- Expanded: 2/5
I think I was pretty excited about Zapdos when it was first leaked, but this ignored the proven alternatives to it. Thunder Snipe is good enough that Zapdos has a small chance of becoming relevant to competitive play in the future, but I’m not betting on or against this big bird.
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