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Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day

 

 Shiftry

- Flashfire

Date Reviewed:
July 7, 2014

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Standard: 3.00
Limited: 3.38

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

Baby Mario
2010 UK National
Seniors
Champion

Shiftry (Flashfire)

Hello and welcome to a new week of reviews here on Pojo’s CotD. We kick off the week with a look at a card that is bound to remind you of something . . .  

Shiftry is a Stage 2 Grass Pokémon with the expected 140 HP. It comes with an extremely nice Ability too: Leaf Draw allows you to draw three cards at the cost of discarding a Grass Energy. This is the kind of fantastic consistency boost that decks are crying out for right now, though as a Stage 2 with a specific discard, Shiftry isn’t at all splashable. The question is: can he be good in his own deck?

That all depends on the attack. Deranged Dance certainly has potential, doing 20 damage times the number of Benched Pokémon in play. It doesn’t take much for that to reach some very useful numbers: keep a full Bench yourself and hit for a minimum of 100 (enough to two-hit practically anything); if your opponent Benches more than a couple and you have a Muscle Band, then you’re into EX OHKO territory, which is a very good place to be with a Pokémon that only gives up a single Prize. The downside is the Energy cost: it’s easy enough to pay for it once with a Grass and a DCE, but if Shiftry keeps getting KO’d then it’s a real struggle to keep up with the attachments. I suppose Milotic FLF is an option, but I can’t say I’m convinced. 

Shiftry is both better and worse than the card it closely resembles: Empoleon DEX. Better because it draws more and hits harder; worse because it’s more needy and more specific in those needs. I still consider Empoleon to be superior card, but you could certainly have something usable if you built a Shiftry deck in a similar way, with Miltank FLF to fill in the gaps. 

Rating 

Modified: 3 (a playable attacking Stage 2 (kind of). Hallelujah)

Limited: 3.25 (great if you can get him out)


aroramage

Hello card fans and welcome back from the holiday (or just the weekend, whatever it is you've done). And aroramage is back again to bring you another Pokemon card of the day review! This time we're taking a look at the Grass-type Shiftry from Flashfire!

 

First though, lemme start by talking about another card most everyone is familiar with: Empoleon (DEX). Empoleon was a mighty Stage 2 in a time where Stage 2s weren't popular (after all, we had Big Pokemon-EX Basics to deal with). It had two great things going for it: a great Ability that gave it a +1 each time it was used, and a super-cheap potential powerful attack in the form of Attack Command, which did 10 damage for each Pokemon in play.

 

Now why bring up Empoleon? Because Shiftry is essentially a spiritual successor of Empoleon in almost every way. Both are 140 HP Stage 2s with a Retreat Cost of 2, both have an Ability that lets the player draw more cards by tossing out one, and both have an attack that's dependent on the number of Pokemon in play. There are some major differences though, and that's where we take a closer look at Shiftry.

 

Shiftry's Ability comes in the form of Leaf Draw, which lets a player discard 1 Grass Energy in order to draw 3 cards. Now on paper, that sounds better than Empoleon's Ability; instead of a +1, you get a +2 (-1 for the discard, +3 for the draw = +2). However, the key difference is this: Empoleon can discard any card in your hand, but Shiftry can only discard Grass Energy. And given that Energy is what you use to power your attacks with, that can be a slight hindrance down the line. Still the card advantage is hard to turn down, and indeed this may make Shiftry playable for Grass decks.

 

But he may not be attacking as much with Deranged Dance as his one option. It's a great attack - it does 20 damage as opposed to Empoleon's 10 damage, but Shiftry has the limitation that it must be Benched Pokemon. Now that's important to factor in, as Shiftry is going to need some Bench sitters to help him out, like say another Shiftry or Mr. Mime (PLF) or the like. It also means that you could be dealing anywhere between 40 to 200 damage each attack, depending on how filled each player's Bench is. Ideally your Bench is full, so that's 100 damage per attack just from your side.

 

Again, this sounds great on paper in comparison to Empoleon's attack, which deals only 70 damage when the controller's Bench is full (up to 120 damage depending on the number the opponent has Benched), but there's one crucial difference between the two attacks: cost. Empoleon's attack is only 1 Water Energy. Shiftry needs at least 3 Energy to pull off his own attack, one of which is Grass Energy. And last I checked, there wasn't a whole lot of Grass acceleration available.

 

Still, in a time where Fire decks are getting a hefty boost, it's nice to see a card like Shiftry stand up in the face of adversity and try to be a better Empoleon than Empoleon. Sure he's limited to Grass decks, but let's face it, they've needed some good stuff outside of Virizion-EX and Genesect-EX. I don't think he'll be a power player like Empoleon (who is also far more splashable with his 1-Energy attack combined with Rainbow Energy), but he's definitely going to help out Grass decks in their time of need.

 

And boy do they need him!

 

Rating

 

Modified: 3/5 (within a Grass deck, he's good draw support and has a nice attack if you can charge it up)

 

Limited: 3.5/5 (the draw support is fantastic in this arena even if you never bring him out for his attack)

 

Arora Notealus: Apparently he can read minds and take preemptive action. Surprised the Ability didn't have more to do with that.

FUN FACT: This Shiftry is the first Grass-type Shiftry since EX Deoxys almost 10 years ago!

 

Next time: No, that's not the eighth Gym Leader of Kalos, that's-


Otaku

As one might expect, my premature return means I have need to promote something; in this case, I am trying to raise funds for something a bit odd; an injured pet.  Enough has nearly been raised to pay treatment other than euthanization, so if you can please consider donating or at least sharing the link.

Today we look at Shiftry (XY: Flashfire 7/106).  I was not able to take the time to watch Nationals live nor have I found a good report over the event from a trusted source to draw any conclusions relevant to the metagame based on the results; if the results of Nationals proves me wrong about something (or dare I dream it, proves me right) then I wouldn’t have known at the time of writing. 

Stats 

Type 

Shiftry is a Grass-Type; there are a few pieces of true Grass-Type support, and even at least one Grass-Type “counter”... okay, that last is just Weedle (XY 3/146), which has a single attack for (G) that does 10 points of base damage plus 20 if the opponent’s Active Pokémon is a Grass-Type.  Actually, the Grass-Type support isn’t much more significant; often there are little things like searching out Grass-Type Pokémon via an attack.  The one exception that may or may not prove significant is Floette (XY: Flashfire 64/106), which is a small Stage 1 Fairy-Type that possesses an Ability that grants +20 HP to Grass-Types (and it stacks). 

Grass Resistance disappeared when the “Poison-Type” shifted from being part of the TCG Grass-Type to part of the TCG Psychic-Type, so barring some more recent combo I don’t know or ancient combos you don’t need to worry about, you’ll never encounter it.  Grass-Weakness on the other hand is useful; while no TCG Type is universally Grass-Weak, it is one of the three potential Weaknesses seen on Fighting-Type and Water-Type Pokémon. 

Stage 

As a Stage 2 Pokémon, Shiftry eats up a lot of space in your deck and takes extra effort over Basic Pokémon to get into play.  This is hardly an automatic disqualification, but there are many Stage 2 Pokémon that fail solely because they do great things, but not after factoring in the overall cost of running an Evolution.  There is a nice combo partner available for any and all Stage 2 Pokémon right now, and Shiftry is no exception: Miltank (XY: Flashfire 83/106) provides a 100 HP, Colorless-Type Basic Pokémon that hits for 80 points of damage with a cost of just (C)... so long as you have a Stage 2 in play.  We’ll examine its lower Stages later, to see if they are a help or a hindrance. 

Hit Points 

140 is roughly “average” for a Stage 2 Pokémon, and is not an easy OHKO for many decks but for most it is a potential OHKO; usually with a slightly less potent attack being boosted via combos, including pseudo-OHKOs that don’t technically score a OHKO but are taking advantage of Poison damage or spread damage from an earlier attack.  Without any boosts (including Weakness), a lot of decks will find it tricky or impossible to deliver 140 points of damage (before Weakness) all at once. 

Weakness 

I find Fire Weakness to be a very scary thing; XY: Flashfire not only gave Fire-Type Pokémon more support, but because it was (and to some degree, still is) “the new thing”, it has given all of us an excuse to try out said support.  We are at last seeing some competitive decks actually attacking with Fire-Types as opposed to only using them for support, and especially in early rounds of a competition you’re more likely to see someone attempting to go rogue (and perhaps carefully metagame) with what would normally be a than successful Fire-Type deck. 

The slight upside is that Fire-Types hit so hard that the “good ones” will often find themselves failing to benefit much, possibly at all.  For example Charizard-EX (XY: Flashfire 12/106) hits for 150 points of damage, OHKOing a Shiftry even without applying Weakness via its second attack, Combustion Blast, and Combustion Blast has an effect that prevents it from being twice in a row (though there are combos around this).  It does improve the results of Slash; its 60 points of damage doubles to 120, making it an easy 2HKO and probable OHKO after “boosting”, but even then Slash just needed a Muscle Band for one of its two attacks to be a 2HKO anyway. 

Resistance 

As is usually the case, this card lacks Resistance entirely.  As “no Resistance” is still the norm, this is less a drawback and more a “missed opportunity”; at 140 HP Resistance is likely enough to matter, though not greatly (Weakness is far overpowered because it is a multiplier, unlike the flat -20 points to damage caused by Resistance.  As in the video games Shiftry are Grass-Type/Dark-Type hybrids, they are Resistant to six video game Types and immune to one video game Type, however all but two forms of Resistance translate poorly to the TCG because one of the seven Types to which Shiftry are Weak are also paired up with each of those.  The two that do work would have been great; Lightning-Type or Darkness-Type Resistance can throw damage tallies off for two popular attacking Types right now. 

Retreat Cost 

A Retreat Cost of two is currently the worst right now, mitigated a bit because there are several commonly played cards and combos to completely zero out a card’s Retreat Cost or bypass the retreating mechanic entirely (even repeatedly).  As the game focuses on OHKOs and 2HKOs right now, there are also very few opportunities for which retreating is useful.  It should still be self-explanatory why lower Retreat Costs are better (even if seldom needed), and if you are aware of Heavy Ball you know why a score of three or more could have potentially been beneficial.  Once Heavy Ball and the aforementioned “tricks” leave the format (unless another card effect influences things abnormally), then a two Retreat Cost will simply be the functional “average”, neither especially easy nor crippling to pay should it be needed. 

Effects 

Ability 

Leaf Draw allows you to discard a Grass-Type Energy from hand to draw three cards.  It does not specify “basic Energy” so should we receive a Special Energy card that counts as the Grass-Type while in hand, it would be a legal discard option.  Normally that’s just something I include to be thorough, but based on its Japanese counterpart, we may be receiving such a card in XY: Furious Fists: we just need a ruling to be sure because the card’s template indicates one thing while the text suggests another. 

Three cards drawn at the cost of a single Energy card discard from hand is very good, though perhaps not quite “great”... at least on its own.  Fortunately the Ability does stack, and unlike some other forms of Ability-based draw power, discarding an Energy card is relatively easy to do each turn if you build your deck correctly, as opposed to say repeatedly lowering your hand significantly below six cards in order to use the Ability of Delphox (XY 26/146) - Mystical Fire - multiple times. 

Attack 

Deranged Dance does 20 points of damage times the number of Benched Pokémon in play (counts both players), at a cost of (GCC).  Three Energy is pretty steep without Energy acceleration, but fortunately the specific requirements are are mostly Colorless which opens up several options, including the simple-but-effective Double Colorless Energy.  The lone (G) Energy requirement makes for slightly increased synergy with Virizion-EX than Shiftry would have without it. 

The attack’s output can vary from 0 (when neither player has a Bench) to 200 (both players have a full Bench).  Between the difficulty of having to fill (and keep full) your own Bench, your opponent potentially using cards that reward them/punish you for having a full bench, and how for most decks, your opponent will have at least some difficulty in keeping a small Bench, I would expect a fairly easy 80 to 120 points of damage per attack; for the effort going into it (Stage 2 and three Energy) that’s still pretty good, and overall I guess the extremes balance out. 

Internal Synergy 

Unlike a Basic Pokémon, setting up multiple copies of even the same Stage 2 Pokémon can be a challenge, as can repeatedly getting three Energy onto Shiftry to attack, however the Ability should offset most of this.  With the right deck to support it, it should even swing to an obvious net gain, allowing you to enjoy a strong attacker and effective Ability, even if you’re going to see plenty of painful OHKOs against your Stage 2 Pokémon.  As such, the Ability and attack compliment each other quite well without being obviously tied together, with the further bonus of not being so painfully co-dependent that interfering with one cripples the other. 

Related Cards 

As a Stage 2, Shiftry will need at least two other cards to get into play.  Its Basic form is Seedot, for which there are currently two candidates: BW: Next Destinies 2/99 and XY: Flashfire 5/106.  Both are Basic, Grass-Type Pokémon with Fire-Type Weakness, single Energy Retreat Costs and one attack that costs (C) to use.  BW: Next Destinies 2/99 has just 40 HP but enjoys Water-Type Resistance, and its attack does 10 or 20 points of damage, depending on if you can flip “heads” for the attack.  XY: Flashfire 5/106 has 50 HP but no Resistance, and instead of doing damage its attack allows you to search your deck for a Basic Pokémon and play it directly to your Bench.  40 HP is rarely worse than 50 HP as both are almost guaranteed OHKOs (only slightly safer on the overall second turn of the game), but the Water Resistance isn’t going to matter very often at this size, either; in the end the attacks decide it and while both attacks are bad, getting a Basic Pokémon from the deck should ultimately serve you better. 

There are two options for Nuzleaf as well, in addition to just skipping it entirely via Rare Candy: BW: Next Destinies 71/99 and XY: Flashfire 6/106.  Both are Stage 1 Pokémon with 80 HP and single Energy Retreat costs: I would have preferred 90 as that is just a bit sturdier while still being a legal Level Ball target and if we remove Level Ball from the equation, 100 to 120 (I believe that “front loading” an Evolution line’s HP, while contrary to the video games, is necessary given the TCG’s mechanics).  I’ll cover XY: Flashfire 6/106 first because of formatting concerns: like Shiftry it is a Grass-Type with Fire Weakness and no Resistance, and it has two attacks.  For (C) it can hit for 20 points of damage while for (GCC) it can do 40, both of which are below competitive rates but at least the Energy requirements are in line with Shiftry. 

BW: Next Destinies is a Darkness-Type with Fighting Weakness, Psychic Resistance and a single attack for (DC) that does 20 points of damage while moving an Energy from the Defending Pokémon to something on the opponent’s Bench.  The Type could allow you to make use of Darkness-Type support for the otherwise Grass-Type Evolutionary line, though that will complicate the deck more and require running basic Darkness Energy cards in addition to Grass Energy (for Dark Patch and Leaf Draw, respectively).  Fighting Weakness has historically been dangerous and the next set is focused around the Type, providing them both many new Pokémon but also Type support; another reason not to mix the two.  The Resistance and the attack are both nice, though on an 80 HP Pokémon not good enough to justify running it.  In the end, use as many Rare Candy as you can, and then XY: Flashfire 6/106 (I always prefer to use at least one of the actual Stage 1). 

There is also another Shiftry still in the format as well as an upcoming Japanese promo; either could present a rival to crowd out an identically named card from decks, or a complimentary combo partner.  Shiftry (BW: Next Destinies 72/99) is a Stage 2 Darkness-Type Pokémon with 130 HP, Fighting-Type Weakness, Psychic-Type Resistance, and single Energy Retreat Cost.  It has an Ability, Giant Fan, that triggers when you play Shiftry from your hand to Evolve one of your Pokémon; you flip a coin and if “heads” you get to choose one of your opponent’s Pokémon and shuffle it and all cards attached to it back into his or her deck.  Its Whirlwind attack requires (DDC) and does 60 points of damage, while also forcing the Defending Pokémon to the Bench (your opponent chooses the new Active).  While access to Darkness-Type support is nice and speeds up the attack, said attack is badly overpriced and the Ability - while awesomely potent - is painfully unreliable and difficult to re-use.  Some “fun” decks were built around this, but they weren’t anywhere near reliable enough to be competitive. 

The Japanese promo (which came out back in May and I assume we will eventually get) has the same stats as today’s card, but with two attacks.  For (G) it can hit for 30 points of damage while giving you a look at your opponent’s hand: if you find a Pokémon there you can bottom deck it, which causes the attack to do another 30 points of damage.  That is a reasonably competent mix of disruption and damage.  The second attack has the same cost as Deranged Dance, but does base damage of 60 with two coin flips that add 30 points of damage per “heads”.  Honestly, this isn’t bad, just not “good”: you’re looking at a 60/90/90/120 split, so half of the outcomes are “fair” damage while one-in-four is “good”, but the 60 point hits can cost you as can the better results happening when they are overkill.  That last bit is important; if I hit for 60 one turn and 120 the next, I’ve only averaged 90 points of damage per turn if the Pokémon I am hitting has sufficient HP: if I hit two 60 HP Pokémon, for example, I have still only inflicted an effective 120 points of damage over two turns, or 60 points of damage on average. 

Neither of these are better than today’s Shiftry, though the promo is almost tempting to run alongside it as a single copy; as well as giving you an attacker that can use most (if not all) of whatever support you’re throwing behind today’s version but still be effective if Bench-sizes are small.  I can’t recommend it, however, because today’s version is just that much better and you can fill those needs with other cards. 

Usage 

Shiftry needs to be the main focus of whatever deck runs it; even if you intend to use it primarily for the Ability, that will affect your Energy choices.  There is a very similar card to Shiftry that was one of the few Evolutions to see some competitive play as a main attacker even before the change to the current First Turn rules and errata of Pokémon Catcher: Empoleon (BW: Dark Explorers 29/108; BW: Plasma Freeze 117/116). 

They can be played in a similar manner, but there are some important key differences other than Type: Empoleon requires just a single (W) Energy to attack and counts all Pokémon (Active and Benched, yours and your opponent’s) but only for damage damage per resulting in a range of 20 to 120 points of damage, and its Diving Draw Ability allows you to discard any one card from your hand to draw two.  This means Empoleon needs a lot of help to score OHKOs, and perhaps the most successful strategy seen with it recently (and not so recently) is to partner it with Dusknoir (BW: Boundaries Crossed 63/149; BW: Plasma Blast 104/101): this does not make OHKOs any easier, but instead prevents overkill while streamlining 2HKOs, sometimes to the point of creating an effective OHKO later. 

Shiftry draws 50% more cards with its Ability and hits twice as hard with its attack, but needs more resources in that it must discard only Grass Energy for its Ability and the bulkier cost of its attack; many Empoleon tactics like Max Potion usage or running lower utility cards because you can use them as discard fodder don’t work.  You benefit less from Dusknoir as well; if you successfully fill your Bench, your opponent has to keep his or her Bench down to one or zero Pokémon to prevent Shiftry from getting into OHKO range of many Pokémon and with common damage boosting tactics Shiftry can still OHKO all but the biggest Evolutions or Pokémon-EX even with such resource management. 

Miltank (XY: Flashfire 83/106) is a natural inclusion regardless and is also an Empoleon (and pretty much every other Stage 2 Pokémon) partner.  It provides a low Energy, Basic Pokémon attacker that can sometimes take a hit and with a little help, score 2HKOs.  Leaf Draw should make relying on Muscle Band, Silver Bangle, and/or the Hypnotoxic Laser/Virbank City Gym combo a reasonable tactic, and even without that it still buys time for Shiftry to set-up while still providing an offense the opponent can’t just ignore.  Miltank also is only hurt by losing some of its support in the event Abilities are shut down; Shiftry can still attack just fine without its Ability, but Miltank (other than needing a Benched Stage 2) requires so little that the loss of expected draw power isn’t as much of an issue. 

Milotic (XY: Flashfire 23/106) can use its Ability to KO itself while attaching up to three Basic Energy to Shiftry (or any other non-Pokémon-EX in the deck), providing additional Energy acceleration (running Double Colorless Energy should pretty much be a given).  You might also be able to attack with it if you don’t mind running a source of (W) Energy, but as it doesn’t hit that hard it would really only have a hope of being useful against Pyroar (XY: Flashfire 20/106) as it would score a OHKO and any Basic attackers you have in the deck couldn’t touch it. 

Something I have heard suggested but have zero data on its actual implementation and success (or lack thereof) is backing Shiftry with the Floette mentioned earlier; just two on the Bench bumps Shiftry to 180, the biggest you see on Basic Pokémon-EX.  If you could actually maintain four Floette, Shiftry would rise to 220 HP, Mega Evolution levels!  Would I personally try this?  Well if I had the cards you bet I would, but I have often enjoyed decks that were less than the most competitive options, so that doesn’t mean much.  This build is even more vulnerable to loss of Abilities, another important difference. 

For Limited play, Shiftry is a card you have to “disqualify” yourself from running.  If you failed to pull even a single Seedot or Nuzleaf alongside it, you obviously shouldn’t run it.  If you manage to pull a big, Basic Pokémon that would be better off backed by 39 non-Basic Pokémon cards (guaranteeing you open with it), that too is a good reason not to run Shiftry.  If you cannot pull enough other Pokémon capable of making use of Grass Energy (as you’ll want to run no less than half of your Energy as Grass Energy for Leaf Draw), you probably shouldn’t run it.  Otherwise, yes include it; everything about Shiftry is better here, though remember than the Weakness is still a concern as this set contains many potent Fire-Type Pokémon and support for them. 

Ratings 

Modified: 3.75/5 - Shiftry has to worry about its Weakness and isn’t as easy to run as Empoleon, but it draws more and hits harder; a bit surprised we aren’t seeing more of it. 

Limited: 4/5 - As outlined above, you run this card unless you have a good reason to not run it. 

Summary 

Shiftry already has enough going for it to justify at least getting a playset for experimentation.  Just a little more going for it (including perhaps some of its rivals rotating out or losing support due to rotation) and it should become a more significant presence, though perhaps the Energy demands (both for the Ability and attack) are more of a problem than I realize.

 


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