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Pojo's Pokemon Card of the Day

 

Spiritomb Lv. 39

Arceus

Date Reviewed: March 28, 2011

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Modified: 4.33
Limited: 4.00

Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale.
1 being the worst. 
3 ... average.  
5 is the highest rating.

Back to the main COTD Page

Combos With:

Baby Mario
2010 UK National
Seniors
Champion

Spiritomb (Arceus)

Hello and welcome to a new week of Pojo’s CotD. Yes, we are STILL waiting for the new set, so we are having another theme week. This time we are looking at starters: those cards that you play in your deck which have the purpose of getting you set up. Obviously, they are cards that you want to have in your opening hand and use on your very first turn . . . that’s why they are called ‘starters’.

Back in ye olde days of complex uber-combo decks that liked to have multiple Pokémon lines in play, starters were seen everywhere. Long-time players will remember great starter Pokémon like Jirachi from Deoxys with its Wishing Star Power, and Holon’s Castform with its Delta Draw attack. Others will recall Pachirisu GE’s Call for Family or Absol SW (which is an exception as it worked by disrupting opponents, and not by directly aiding set up). For the past couple of years though, the format has been dominated by SP rush decks (Luxchomp, Luxape) and single Energy attackers like Kingdra LA and Machamp SF. Faced with all this speed, the starter almost disappeared. The ones that see play now only survive because they are extremely powerful cards. Let’s take a look at the first one shall we?

We kick of the week with Spiritomb from the Arceus set. This is probably the most commonly seen of all the starter Pokémon, and with good reason: it helps out slower evolution decks in two ways. Firstly, its Keystone Seal PokeBody prevents both players from using Trainers when Spiritomb is active. The Spiritomb player can prepare for this by running Supporters and minimal Trainers, meanwhile, those speedy decks I mentioned earlier have a real problem: it’s hard for an SP deck to set up fast without key Trainers like Poke Turn and SP Radar, and those non-SP single Energy attackers are often dependent on cards like Rare Candy and Pokémon Communication for a quick start.

But that’s not all Spiritomb has to offer evolution decks. Its Darkness Grace attack costs no Energy to use and allows you to search your deck for a Pokémon that evolves from a Pokémon on your bench and put it on to that Pokémon. So, not only do you get to slow down your opponent with Trainer Lock, you also get speeded-up search-and-evolve for yourself. See what I mean about playable starters having to be incredibly good?

Of course, even Spiritomb has its downsides. With only 60 HP, it’s not hard to KO (although that can lead to the Spiritomb player being able to use Twins), it can be locked active for an entire game with Chatot MD (but that is very rarely seen these days), the Trainer lock is negated by Dialga G LV X, and its attack is completely useless if you are not able to bench any basics. Nevertheless, for slower evolution decks and decks which work by locking out Trainers for the whole game (use it to evolve a Vileplume UD on your bench!), Spiritomb is a great card . . . one that gives them at least a fighting chance against the likes of Luxchomp.

Rating

Modified: 4.25 (one of the most overpowered starters ever printed . . . and it needs to be that way)

Mad Mattezhion
 Professor Bathurst League Australia

Spiritomb (Platinum Arceus)
 
We have a new theme for you as we simmer with impatience while waiting for the English release of Black and White. This week we are doing 'starters', which in gaming terms means the card you want to start your game with in order to get the best setup. I'm going to guess that this was Virusyosh's idea since evry other current member of the review crew has already picked a theme. A good pick!
 
There are 2 kinds of starters: quasi-starters which do an okay job of setting up until they can be turned into something else later in the game (in Poke'mon TCG that means evolving), and dedicated starters which do their job until they are removed/discarded from play.
 
Typically dedicated starters do a much better job of setting up a deck to make up for the fact that they are dead weight later in the game. Quasi-starters are inferior in terms of setup but they are great to have in a deck since they provide support for their evolved forms and are a backup to your dedicated starter, allowing you to run fewer dedicated starters as support Poke'mon and/or have a greater chance of getting a good start to a game. If an evolved Poke'mon you want to use has a Basic/Stage 1 pokemon with some kind of support attack/Poke-power/Poke-body then that is definitely the version you are going to use.
 
This week, however, we are going to be reviewing the dedicated starters currently in circulation and today's subject is Spiritomb PA.
 
Spiritomb is a Dark type Basic with 60 HP, no weakness, Colourless resistance, a retreat cost of 1, a Poke-body and 2 attacks. Spiritomb isn't going to survive a single turn against any main attacker but that useful resistance and brilliant weakness will keep Spiritomb alive if it is facing any minor Poke'mon. The 60 HP isn't much especially since Spiritomb damages itself but it is high enough to avoid a donk win from Sableye SF, it's main rival.
 
The Poke'body is the second best part of this card, but like the main attack it is a double-edged sword. Keystone Seal stops both players from playing Trainer cards from their hands (whether it is on their turn or their opponent's turn, so it stops Power Spray) while Spiritomb is Active. The main benefit of this abiltiy is that opponents who like to use a lot of Trainer cards are slowed by Keystone seal, while you will have built you deck to work around this handicap so you won't be majorly affected (you will need more Supporter and Stadium cards as they are unaffected by Keystone Seal, but the same is true for your opponent!). Best of all, Keystone Seal can be deactivated by retreating Spiritomb or by just letting it get Knocked Out by your opponent and/or repeat use of Darkness Grace, so you don't have to go completely without Trainer cards in your own deck.
 
If you are going to Bench Spiritomb rather than let it get KOed, you can use Unown Q to reduce the single energy retreat cost to nothing (it won't help much if your opponent uses Victreebel TM to trap your Spitiomb in the Active slot but it is otherwise great). This is particularly useful if you are going to use an attack that allows you to switch your own Active out (Gengar PA [Curse] and Gastly SF come to mind) so that you can block your opponent's Trainer cards and then retreat to attack again. Sadly this strategy has fallen out of use with the release of Vileplume UD, but it is still a useful option to have.
 
Speaking of Vileplume UD, it has a similar ability to block Trainer cards (except it lasts as long as Vileplume is in play) so Spiritomb is a natural partner if you are willing to go completely without Trainer cards. Since Gengar SF likes Trainer blocking (Poltergeist for the win!) there is already one deck build where Spiritomb and Vileplume fit perfectly, and several others involving lots of Special Conditions (Victreebel TM and Leafeon UD seem to be the main contenders) have been tried and found effective even if they aren't as popular.
 
That's enough about Keystone Seal, the other major advantage Spiritomb has is its attacks. Will-o'-the-wisp [sic] is a complex and historic name for the completely vanilla second attack, which just deals 10 damage for [d]. Admittedly you can use Special Dark energy to boost the damage, but between the low HP of Spiritomb and the fact that the first attack is so brilliant you won't want to use Will-o'-the-wisp even in an emergency situation (unless you are only 10 damage away from taking the win and don't have any other options, which will be incredibly rare).
 
No, the beating heart of Spiritomb (bear with me, I know Spiritomb is heartless but it looks so good in print) is the first attack, Darkness Grace. The effect of this energy-free attack (I really wish that mechanic had continued into the HGSS cards on more Poke'mon than just the unused 'baby' cards) is to search your deck for a card that evolves from one of your Benched Poke'mon and place it on that Poke'mon (it counts as evolving that Poke'mon, yadda yadda yadda). Then place a damage counter on Spiritomb.
 
The brilliance of this attack is how well it fits in with the overall design and gaming environment of the card, since you can boost normally slow evolution decks with this free attack while slowing your opponent down by denying them the use of their Trainer cards. If Spiritomb had either one of these abilities on its own then it would have been worth a look even if it didn't get played, but together Keystone Seal and Darkness Grace make Spiritomb awesome without being broken because of the low-but-not-too low 60 HP (made better by the excellent bottom stats) and the damage counter penalty of Darkness Grace.
 
On the subject of the self-damage, there are now ways to turn that loss into an advantage. Aside from using it to KO Spiritomb a little faster so you don't have to pay to retreat cost, you can use the loss of a Prize to play Twins and finish your setup by grabbing some of those difficult-to-search-cards, like Special energy and Stadiums. Finally, the most over-looked benefit of being able to force Spiritomb to be KOed early in the game (but hopefully not before you are well set for the game ahead) is that you get the bench space back for another card. Even if you do retreat, you can achieve a similar effect by sending Spiritomb up as a sacrifice after one of your other Poke'mon gets removed from play (it may even by you some time with another evolution from your deck).
 
Another option is to pair Spiritomb with Nidoqueen RR so that the damage counter is removed. Admittedly the healing won't help Spiritomb much if your opponent can attack but if you have locked your opponent down because they cannot live without their Trainer cards (especially if you threw down a Judge to really hammer the point home) and you are running Nidoqueen in your deck (the blue mother dinosaur does very well in VileGar builds) then you might as well benefit from Maternal Instinct sooner rather than later.
 
So far I have been singing Spiritomb's praises, but it does have some issues. The first is that Spiritomb becomes a lot less useful in a mirror match against another Spiritomb and suffers quite heavily against an opposing Sableye SF which can use Overconfident to limit you to only one turn using Darkness Grace (or just take a First Turn Knock Out if they also play Crobat G and have one in their starting hand alongside a Special Dark energy). As such, Spiritomb is likely to take a beating with the new rule change coming with Black and White making Sableye very effective (if it remains in the format) though the importance of blocking Trainer cards right from the first turn and a possible ban/errata on Sableye if it gets too powerful will help keep Spiritomb in circulation.
 
The other common game situation that makes Spiritomb damned near useless is having Spiritomb as a lone start. Keystone Seal may buy you some time but if you don't have Poke'mon to evolve then Spiritomb is dead in the water and easy to KO. Poke'mon Collector is your best friend in this case, and it's also helpful if you have a bad start so you can search out and switch out for Spiritomb to get back on track.
 
I have the utmost respect for the design team who made this card because it is that truly rare mixture of eye-catching (full marks to Aya Kusube), intriguing and playable without breaking the balance of the game as a whole, and it is a card you learn to love as you discover more ways to utilise it effectively (when I first saw this card I had no idea how good it was or how much I would grow to love it). Spiritomb may not be the most popular starter in the game but it is a shining example of why we all choose to play the Poke'mon TCG.
 
Modified: 4.75 (Spiritomb isn't perfect but it is a brilliant card and truly earned its place in the Top 10 Cards for 2009)
Limited: 4 (Great for finding those evolutions but Keystone Seal isn't nearly as good here and there is no way to turn that damage counter penalty into a significant advantage like there is in Modified)
 
Combos with: Vileplume UD, Unown Q, Twins, Judge, Poke'mon Collector

conical

3/28/11: Spiritomb (Arceus)
 
This week is Starter week at Pojo. A lot of these cards have been reviewed already, some of them multiple times, but it's always nice to remember cards that not only share a common theme, but are also usable in a competitive environment. Like Unown Week! Or...Magnezone Week. Magnezone Week's probably the better example.
 
We start with Spiritomb, who probably has one of the higher usability of the card/number of cards printed based on the Pokemon ratios, if people actually paid attention to that sort of thing. This Spiritomb is definitely the most playable, but both Spiritomb LA and Spiritomb TRI have had their uses.
 
And what does make Spiritomb so good, both as a starter and in general? Could it be the massive boost to evolution decks it gives with Darkness Grace? Is it the Trainer-locking Body, which, in addition to slowing down Trainer-heavy decks at the start of the game, also has been used in combination with Gliscor Lv. X, or Gengar AR, or Magnezone SF, to keep a continuous Trainer lock, while being able to play Trainers yourself?
 
Nah, it's probably Will-o'-the-wisp. What a great attack.
 
Modified: 4/5
Limited: 4/5
Combos With: Evolution decks

virusyosh

Welcome back, everyone! This week we are going to be review cards that are commonly used in Modified to set up in the game's early turns, making them great starters. We kick off Starter Week by reviewing Spiritomb from Arceus.

Spiritomb is a Basic Darkness-type Pokemon. Dark types aren't commonly seen aside from the random Honchkrow or Weavile G tech in SP builds, but the presence of this Spiritomb can't be ignored. 60 HP is a bit below average for a non-evolving Basic, but after it has done its job, you probably will want it gone quickly anyway. No Weakness is amazing, meaning that your opponent probably won't have a way to OHKO Spiritomb unless they are totally built up. Colorless Resistance is great against the Garchomp Cs running rampant around the metagame, although Dragon Rush still sadly OHKOs. Finally, a Retreat Cost of 1 is thoroughly decent, and easily payable.

Spiritomb has a Poke-Body and two attacks. The Body, Keystone Seal, prevents Trainer cards from being played from the hand by both players while Spiritomb is active. This is great for the beginning of the game, as it slows your opponent down, allowing you more time to build up using Darkness Grace.

Speaking of Darkness Grace, it is a free attack that allows you to search your deck for a card that evolves from one of your Pokemon, perform the evolution, and then put a damage counter on Spiritomb. This is excellent in many Stage 2 decks, as it makes sure that you get your Stage 2s up and running quickly. In fact, many VileGar players (or other decks that use Vileplume) often will use Spiritomb to start the Trainer lock, build up to Vileplume (and Gengar) with Darkness Grace, then allow the opponent to get rid of Spiritomb, allowing the use of Twins and having two built-up Pokemon with persistent Trainer lock. In decks not running Vileplume, Spiritomb is still worth considering, especially if you don't mind about not playing too many trainers.

Spiritomb's other attack, Will-o'-the-wisp, does 10 damage for a single Darkness Energy. Not really ever going to be used, because of how good Darkness Grace is.

Modified: 4/5 Spiritomb is a great set-up Pokemon for Stage 2 decks. Being able to slow your opponent's Trainer usage is great, as well as the ability to search out Evolution cards and evolve directly with very little drawback. Sure, it doesn't belong in every deck and chances are your opponent will end up taking the first prize by Knocking Out Spiritomb, but the speed that it allows Stage 2 decks is great.

Limited: 3.5/5 Not quite as good here, only because there are fewer Prizes, fewer Trainers, and the odds of you getting many Evolutions aren't well-defined. Even still, chances are you will run at least one Stage 2 line (or many Stage 1 lines), and this makes Spiritomb very nice. Keystone Seal can also come in handy to block your opponent's Expert Belts or even Beginning Door. It's not a great offensive attacker, but the use of Spiritomb will lead to you getting your big attackers out, so you should still run it if you pull one.

Combos With: Stage 2s, Vileplume UD (for persistent Trainer lock), Twins (to complete your set-up after it is KOed)


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