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Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day

 

Donphan

- Plasma Storm

Date Reviewed:
Jan. 7, 2015

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Standard: 3.67
Expanded: 3.38
Limited: 3.50

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

Donphan (Plasma Storm) 

Now here’s a card that definitely needs re-reviewing (is that a word?).

When Donphan was originally released a couple of years ago, no-one was very impressed. Sure, Punch-and-Run attacks like Spinning Turn are fun and all, but there was no real way of making an output of 40 damage per turn work against 170-180 HP EX Pokémon. With Pokémon Catcher yet to receive errata, the Bench was no safe place to hide, and Plasma decks featuring Kyurem as a main attacker were running rampant and were very capable of smashing Donphan for an easy OHKO. 

But then things started to change . . . first Catcher got nerfed, then Muscle Band appeared. Once Furious Fists hit the format, bringing with it Fighting Stadium and Strong Energy, suddenly Donphan became capable of hitting for up to 100 damage with Spinning Turn, and OHKOing anything short of a non-Weak Mega with its second attack, Wreck. Once the threshold of one and two hit KOs had been reached, Donphan became a contender, able to trade favourably with the two-Prize EX Pokémon, and was finally able to take advantage of the plethora of good switch-in Pokémon that were on offer: Sigilyph to wall EX’s; Outrage Dragons to threaten KOs on anything Weak to them; and Hawlucha FFI to act as a free-retreat pivot and useful alternative attacker. The introduction of Robo Substitute was just gravy . . . allowing Donphan to switch out to a card that didn’t even give up a Prize. 

I guess the moral of the story is that if you throw out enough damage-boosting stuff, then eventually it’s going to break a previously rubbish card. I’m sure the card designers were only too aware of that, as we have already been down this road with other Spinning Turn Donphan a couple of times before. The more things change . . .  

Rating 

Modified: 4.25 (ugly, rubbish Pokémon gets stupid amount of support and becomes very good)

Expanded: 3.75 (Dark Patch-powered Yveltal decks are even more of a threat to it in this format)


aroramage

Well, this is certainly a surprise! You wouldn't think we'd go back to reviewing a card that's almost two years old now (is that really how long it's been?!). Welcome back, today we're taking another look at Donphan from Plasma Storm!

If there is any card that's seen more play because of recent support, it's gotta be Donphan. Back in his day, he was just your average Stage 1 with some bulk to him at 130 HP and a couple of decent moves. Spinning Turn helps him deal a swift 40 damage and switches him onto the Bench for another Pokemon, while the aptly-named Wreck does 80 damage unless there's a Stadium in play; in the case of the latter, it deals an extra 60 damage and "wrecks" the Stadium to pieces! 

Course back then, he had a lot to contend with like Rayquaza-EX and Black Kyurem-EX, big monstrosities that could OHKO anything in sight! There was also Keldeo-EX, who could tap into that Water Weakness (a weakness that will be rising up in the next couple of months, I'm thinking), and aside from that, he's an Evolution, which even back then was tricky to do. 

So what's changed? Well to take care of the Evolution problem, we've got Evosoda, which can evolve any Phanpy you've got right into one of these bad boys! Or you could add him to your hand with a Muscle Band using Korrina! But more notably, the answer lies in our #6 Card of 2014: Strong Energy. Attach one to Donphan, and he's basically pulling off what Gengar-EX does for 2-3 Energy: hits for 60 and retreats to a safe distance. This hit-and-run strategy is a bit odd for Fighting types, but it's effective nevertheless, even without poisoning everything in sight! Course if you happen to tack on a Muscle Band and some HTLBank, you're letting Donphan hit for 110 damage - for 1 Energy! 

And that's the sort of power most Pokemon only HOPE to achieve for so little! It's what brought a card destined for the binder out into decks and into competitive play, something few cards are able to do! He may see a little downplay given the reintroduction of Enhanced Hammer (and the potential rise of Water decks in the near future), but for now, he's a card that shows, with time, anything can happen! 

Rating 

Standard: 3/5 (a decent attack made only better by the new support he gets!)

Expanded: 3/5 (pretty much about the same here) 

Limited: 3.5/5 (while he does lose Strong Energy, his hit-and-run strategy is still pretty viable here, and Wreck can be used to take out Plasma Frigate or Virbank City Gym!) 

Arora Notealus: I'm sure like most people, I remember Donphan from his introduction in the very first Pokemon movie - back then, he was a complete unknown! Alongside Togepi and Ho-oh, he was meant to foreshadow the upcoming Generation II games (though Ho-oh beats either of them by showing up in the VERY FIRST EPISODE!!). 

Next Time: Somewhere over the energy~


Otaku

Today we’ll start by wishing my mother, Birdie, a happy birthday.  This would be more meaningful if she was actually going to see it and if it actually had gone up in time (this review was posted late because it was written late).  Still I’m very fortunate to have had this wonderful woman as my mother.  No, today’s selection is in no way connected to this fact; the Pokémon I associate with my mother is Happiny. ;) 

We look at the first honorable mention that did not make anyone’s Top 10 list.  Why?  It wasn’t eligible; not because it was a reprint but because it released in 2013.  Today we look at Donphan (BW: Plasma Storm 72/135); the original review is dated April 8, 2013.  I am embarrassed to say that this is a review I missed; I don’t recall if I had a good reason or not, but I’m about to remedy it regardless. 

Donphan is a Fighting-Type, which was good back then but is great right now; while Resistance can be a pain from time to time that doesn’t offset being the Type that most Colorless-, Darkness- and Lightning-Types are Weak to and having great direct and indirect Type support (obviously, that last bit didn’t apply when the card was new).  Being a Stage 1 is a better now due to the change in first turn rules and errata received by Pokémon Catcher: when Donphan was first released you could still attack Turn 1 and Pokémon Catcher didn’t require a flip.  Its 130 HP is functional; given that it is only worth one Prize, while this is still low enough most decks can score a OHKO it is high enough that it will be a little tricky and you won’t be out as much as you would if a Pokémon-EX had been KOed. 

Of course the card’s Water Weakness voids the previous statement in relevant match-ups, and Kyurem (BW: Plasma Freeze 31/116) was already known about by the time those of us outside of Japan got our hands on Donphan; Kyurem [Plasma] decks would be one of the best decks for a bit and a solid deck for some time.  You also had to worry about the odd Water-Type attacker in general; after all a Keldeo-EX with three Energy and either a Muscle Band or one of those Energy providing [W] was good enough for a OHKO.  The Lightning Resistance was useful in some match-ups thanks to the HP and fact that most Lightning-Types were also Fighting Weak, but even all that still amounted to a fringe benefit.  The massive four Energy Retreat Cost was something you had to plan around, but both then and now most decks already had incentive to work around manually retreating at full price, and back when the card first released (and still in Expanded), you were able to use Heavy Ball for Donphan. 

Spinning Turn and Wreck were attacks that were just a bit too weak to cut it when Donphan first released; the Energy costs were alright as you had one nice, inexpensive attack for just [F] (Spinning Turn) and one massive attack to build to for [FFCC] (Wreck), which meant that Double Colorless Energy and similar tricks could help.  The issue was that 40 per turn wasn’t enough, especially at a time when you still had an Item to easily force a Benched Donphan Active.  Wreck precludes making use of Hypnotoxic Laser alongside Virbank City Gym, at least if you wanted to get 80+60 by discarding the Stadium in play and not just the base 80.  Muscle Band and a Hypnotoxic Laser back then were necessary to score 170.  Remember, this was before even Silver Bangle was an option!  Both of these attacks are much better thanks to the damage bonuses available via Strong Energy and Fighting Stadium (which kicks in before it is discarded, if I understand the ruling correctly).  Combined with a Muscle Band or Silver Bangle and especially additional Strong Energy and even some Mega Evolutions are within OHKO range!  Mostly those the important thing is that Spinning Turn easily starts hitting hard enough for 2HKOs while the nerfing of Pokémon Catcher means your opponent needs an Ability, a Lysandre or some luck to force Donphan Active to even attack it. 

Breadth: Directly Donphan is only run in Donphan decks; running it well means its going to take over the build.  Indirectly it affects most decks because Donphan decks are popular and can’t be handled the way you would a typical beatdown deck where the attacker is staying up front between turns. 

Depth: Donphan revived (or at least reinvigorated) hit-and-run style decks for 2014.  Again its own deck is built around it while other decks have to cope with something that isn’t a Pokémon-EX both hitting hard and being able to hide on the Bench.  It is a long time strategy that we were seeing recent, significant success pre-Donphan, helping to lessen the impact. 

Time: Donphan really didn’t matter much at first; it at least needed BW: Plasma Blast so that Silver Bangle could help with damage and really even Muscle Band (so that you could hit more than just Pokémon-EX a little harder) still wasn’t enough though people tried.  XY: Furious Fists is when Donphan decks picked up the needed momentum to start winning tournaments, so despite being too old to be eligible for the official list, even bending the rules this card doesn’t get a huge boost. 

Ratings 

Standard: 3.5/5 - Donphan is a solid card that works because of all the little things it has going for it, including a lot of other great cards that cause the deck to function as if it has a better attacker. 

Expanded: 3.5/5 - I am honestly not that sure about how well Donphan does here; it regains Heavy Ball and Level Ball to help with set-up but that holds true for many other decks.  This is mostly a score so that I have a score, so I gave it the same as I did for Standard, as with many cards the differences tend to even out (if only because people forget to take advantage of them). 

Limited: 4.75/5 - If you didn’t pull a big, Basic Pokémon worth building a +39 deck around, you really should make room for this in whatever deck you do manage to build, unless it is clear you just won’t gain enough out of the deal.  The Water Weakness is a concern, and if you just lack decent fodder to hide behind (or Stadiums to discard for Wreck), it might not be worth it. 

Summary: Donphan really helped to shape 2014, though mostly the last third or so, even if it was released back in 2013.  It kept hit-and-run style decks in the forefront of the metagame, as well as being one of the few currently worthwhile Evolving attackers.  Since it is both deck specific and relies on the strengths of many other cards, I probably wouldn’t have rated it too high on my list, but had it been a card originally released this year, it certain would have made it.


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