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Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day

 

Top 10 Dark Explorers Countdown

#1 - Ultra Ball

Dark Explorers

Date Reviewed: May 18, 2012

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Modified: 4.35
Limited: 5.00

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: See Below

Baby Mario
2010 UK National
Seniors
Champion

Dark Explorers Countdown

#1 Ultra Ball

So . . . finally we reach the #1 card in the set and it’s not an EX Pokémon!

Ultra Ball is a Trainer-Item that just happens to be the best Pokémon Search card in the format. Why? Because it offers the ultimate in versatility. Unlike Dual Ball, Level Ball, Heavy Ball, Pokémon Collector, or Professor Elm, it can search out any Pokémon whatsoever regardless of Stage, HP, or Retreat cost. Unlike PokéBall or Dual Ball, it doesn’t rely on a coin flip. Unlike Great Ball it doesn’t depend on random chance. Unlike Pokémon Communication, you don’t need a Pokémon to shuffle back in. Instead of these drawbacks and limitations, Ultra Ball has a cost: in order to play it you need to discard two cards from your hand. Even that cost can be turned into an advantage for any deck which likes to accelerate Energy with Eelektrik NV or Dark Patch, so guess what . . . ? Two of the most powerful decks in the format just got a card with huge utility, searching out Pokémon and fuelling the discard pile.

But what about those decks that don’t benefit from discarding? Will they still be using Ultra Ball as their search method of choice? In the current format, I seriously doubt that. Not every deck can afford to chuck away a couple of cards to search out a Pokémon, especially when you consider that they will be discarding for Junk Arm as well. Evolution decks that run a high Pokémon count will likely prefer to stick with Communication, while Basic decks like Celebi/Mewtwo/Tornadus are probably going to keep playing Dual Ball. If Ultra Ball is played at all outside of discard decks, I expect it to be limited to one or two copies.

Come September, if we rotate to a Black and White-on format (hopefully) and lose both Collector and Dual Ball, then I can see 3-4 Ultra Ball becoming a staple in more or less every deck. It may not turn out to be the most played card in Dark Explorers right now, but next season, that could very well change.

Rating

Modified: 4 (decks that enjoy discarding love it, but in a BW-on format, this is an absolute staple and would get a 4.75)

Limited: 5 (dump a couple of your rubbish cards to search out any Pokémon? It doesn’t get much better than this)

virusyosh

Happy Friday, Pojo readers! Today we're reviewing the card that we voted #1 in our Dark Explorers countdown. It's a new Item card that should see a ton of play, and can fit well into nearly every deck. Today's Card of the Day, and #1 card on our countdown, is Ultra Ball.
 
Ultra Ball is an Item card, and as such can be used multiple times per turn (without taking up the Supporter slot), but is also blocked by the abilities and effects of Vileplume UD, Gothitelle EP, and Zebstrika ND; although all of those cards are now somewhat rare in Modified. Ultra Ball has a very simple yet robust effect: you can discard two cards from your hand to search your deck for a Pokemon (no restrictions!) and put it into your hand, shuffling afterward. This effect is amazingly powerful, as grabbing any Pokemon that you need for any situation is incredible. The discard can prove to be a bit of a problem in decks that don't have dedicated recursion (running Ultra Ball and Junk Arm can be very difficult), but in general, grabbing any Pokemon without restriction is amazing in any format.
 
Modified: 4.75/5 Ultra Ball is an incredibly strong card, and will see a lot of play in Modified. That being said, Ultra Ball can be difficult to play in decks without recursion, as the heavy discard requirements (along with most decks running Junk Arm as well) will often result in dumping your hand for a marginal effect. One easy way to offset this is to drop numbers of Ultra Ball and Junk Arm while using other types of Pokemon search or recursion. Then again, unrestricted search is absolutely amazing, and the benefits will usually outweigh the drawbacks.
 
Limited: 5/5 Ultra Ball is simply amazing here. You'll often have dead/not useful cards in hand, and unrestricted search is crazy in a format with low draw and search capabilities. If you pull them, use them.


Otaku

At last we come to the collective top pick of the Pojo Pokémon review crew, and it is Ultra Ball! So what makes this Item so potent?

Stats

The downside of being a Trainer is in a sense, you’re superfluous. While Trainers are usually the driving force behind a deck, few Trainers actually directly win you the game. There's only a handful that directly contribute to a “win” condition, though there are a few more that can function as Pokémon or otherwise directly keep you from losing for the turn. However, it is Pokémon and Energy to fuel Pokémon that ultimately wins games the vast majority of the time.

Fortunately Trainers really are what get a deck going and keep it flowing most of the time, though sometimes Pokémon do a good job of that as well. Trainers are also a little easier to block than Pokémon or Energy, and Ultra Ball is an Item, which makes it even easier to block. Still, when there are no outside effects interfering, Items are the easiest cards to play in the game; weak effects can become amazing through stacking them, and potent cards border on or crossover into being unbalancing.

Effects

Ultra Ball has a built in cost, which tells you the designers thought the effect would be potent. They were right; while it costs you three cards from hand (Ultra Ball and two discards) Ultra Ball let’s you search your deck for any Pokémon and add it to hand. No worrying about Stage or coin flips. No worrying about Retreat Cost. No worrying about printed HP. It may be costly, but you’re getting what you pay for.

Usage

Here is where things finally get a bit interesting. Ultra Ball can function in any deck, like two of our previous entries on the top 10; Enhanced Hammer (BW: Dark Explorers 94/108) at number nine and Tornadus EX (BW: Dark Explorers 90/108, 108/108). Besides running into Gothitelle (BW: Emerging Powers 47/98) and Vileplume(HS: Undaunted 24/90) (which of course would block all Item cards and are quite deck specific) you have only to concern yourself with what your own deck is doing; on the other hand the usefulness of Enhanced Hammer varies according to how much Special Energy your opponent is running and Tornadus EX is less useful if your opponent isn’t running Fighting-Type Pokémon and can even become a liability against the usual Lightning-Type decks.

In many decks right now, Ultra Ball can function quite well indeed; the two card discard cost can be a bonus when it combos with a major part of a deck. As you are well aware by now, Lightning-Type decks are still going to focus on Eelektrik (BW: Noble Victories 40/101) and its Dynamotor Ability and Darkness-Type decks are going to focus on using Dark Patch in a similar set-up. Other decks will still have discard friendly options, such as Pokémon and basic Energy that aren’t needed at the moment and that Super Rod or Flower Shop Lady can throw back in if needed for later.

In fact, there is a single thing that hurts this card and I’ve found many players have either overlooked or (in my opinion) undervalued; Junk Arm. Decks rely heavily on Junk Arm right now. In some ways this sets the stage for Ultra Ball; we have already learned how to utilize and build decks with an eye towards meeting discard requirements. Mostly though this becomes direct competition for discarding resources; if you can’t meet the discard costs of both Junk Arm and Ultra Ball you’ll feel it pretty bad. As such, it really is possible for some, perhaps many decks to still rely on the other “Ball” Items instead. We do have several, and honestly all have their uses.

Dual Ball was never really competition for Ultra Ball anyway; if you really need Basic Pokémon that bad you’re just going to make use of all copies you run of Pokémon Collector, instead of just trying to run as few as you need to open with it. Poké Ball wasn’t ever viewed as a “real” choice either, though given how well players adapted to Pokémon Reversal backed by Junk Arm, I do wonder if Evolution cards had been more important to decks at large if we’d have seen it run. Level Ball and Heavy Ball, on the other hand, have proven useful in prominent, tournament caliber decks. Even running a mix of both can sometimes be safer than trying to get by with Ultra Ball, if you just can’t afford the discard costs.

Of course the card is pretty pointless for Unlimited. Yes it can help with Sabledonk and other first turn nasty decks, but you’ve already got Computer Search (you know, the better version of Ultra Ball), Luxury Ball, and non-Supporter draw cards; you shouldn’t have room or need of Ultra Ball. So what about Limited? It is search power in Trainer form; unless there’s some bizarre restriction that’s an automatic must run.

Ratings

Unlimited: 1/5

Modified: 3.8/5

Limited: 5/5

Summary

So the number one card actually scores lower than other cards in the top 10? How does that work out? Well those other cards had a much narrower focus and to be honest, I am starting to have some “buyer’s remorse” with placing Ultra Ball so high after a little more testing. I favor versatility and utility over raw power, and what I scored higher worked for slightly specific to very specific decks. Almost everything I have against this card boils down to finding it hard to afford both it and Junk Arm, and if I’ve got to choose Junk Arm wins. If you need just one or two universal search Items, it isn’t a problem, but if you were trying to replace several Level Ball and/or Heavy Ball, the savings in deck space may not be worth the difficulty in paying the discard cost. Don’t let a few tenths of a point scare you off of snagging a play set and testing it out thoroughly. In many decks it is a perfect fit.


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