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Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day

 

 Infernape
- Steam Siege

Date Reviewed:
Aug. 22, 2016

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Standard: 2.0
Expanded: 2.67
Limited: 3.0

Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale.
1 being horrible.  3 ... average.  5 is awesome.

Back to the main COTD Page


aroramage

Alright, so here's an idea: what if we take an implausible idea, put it on a card, and see what happens? Cause that seems a little bit like the idea going in behind Infernape here. 

Here's the thing - he's got two AMAZING attacks...on the surface. Flare Blitz is a 2-for-120 PUNCH while Flare Up is a 2-for-200 DEVASTATION. If there was ever an effect that removed the effects from attacks - as in didn't make you undergo the effects on cards - Infernape may become one of the most devastating Pokemon ever printed. As it stands, nothing like that is in Standard, so both of these attacks have wild drawbacks that make them...okay. 

Flare Blitz's drawback is the typical "discard all Energy" effect that can be easily circumvented by Burning Energy. But Flare Up is...very different. See, you need to have at least 10 Fire Energy in the discard pile in order to use the attack, and then it shuffles 10 of them back into the deck. So Flare Blitz is meant to power into Flare Up, which then recharges you with 10 of those Energies. Interesting. 

There are some very fundamental flaws though. Ultimately in the long run, the strategy will slow down, as more and more of your cards become used up save for Energies, and eventually you'll be drawing more into the Energy you put back than anything useful. Ideally, you've defeated your opponent by then, but that is a long term concern. In the short time, relying on Infernape alone to fuel the discard is a mixed bag, since he ends up discarding all of his Energy every turn, and while we've got Blacksmith in the format for now, it's not gonna be long before rotation eliminates that as a possibility. 

Infernape wants a deck that supports him, and right now the best one is in Expanded. Maybe with some Volcanion-EX, definitely using Fiery Torch, and just turbo-boosting Flare Up as much as possible to destroy any chance your opponent has of beating you. Ideally, you destroy them faster than they can come back or set up. 

If not...well, it was nice while it lasted. 

Rating 

Standard: 1.5/5 (very gimmicky, really wants the deck to build around him, and if not...) 

Expanded: 2.5/5 (well, let's just say you won't be able to play Infernape very well) 

Limited: 2/5 (Flare Up better be getting used in a mono-Fire build, cause otherwise it's not that great even here) 

Arora Notealus: One of these days, Infernape's gonna have an awesome EX...or a GX. 

Next Time: The curious case of the classic...colt.


Otaku

The 2016 World Championships are over, but we’re going to see if we can still stay all fired up by reviewing Infernape (XY: Steam Siege 20/114)! 

Infernape is a Fire Type, as you can plainly see from the card image.  Nearly all Grass and Metal Types are Fire Weak, and both Types were major parts of decks in the Top 8 of the 2016 World Championships that just finished yesterday.  At least a few are decks that could survive rotation, losing pieces but nothing absolutely essential.  Nothing is Fire Resistant; Resistance isn’t particularly potent, but not having to worry about it is a good thing.  There are some anti-Fire Type effects, and they often mimic Resistance (reducing damage done by 20), but they also aren’t overly potent.  In fact the one you actually need to worry about is Parallel City, which is run for its Bench shrinking effect, but the other half reduces the damage done by attacks from Fire, Grass, and Water Types.  The Fire Type has some very good support, but nothing proven to be really great, at least not recently.  Blacksmith and Volcanion-EX are specific to both Fire Type Pokémon and Energy, but provide strong Energy acceleration or damage buffs (respectively).  Then there are cards like Scorched Earth that work with basic Fire Energy (since nothing else counts as [R] while in hand), though this card can also work with basic Fighting Energy as well.  Then there are some strong Fire Type attackers like Volcanion, Entei (XY: Ancient Origins 14/98) and its set-mate Entei (XY: Ancient Origins 15/98).  Like I’ve said, this is a Type that seems due. 

Infernape is a Stage 2 and that is almost enough to make me stop reading.  Stage 2 Pokémon do have some exclusive support (like Rare Candy) and some shared support (like Training Center), but almost every other Stage of Evolution has just as good or better support, and even if it didn’t, the fundamental game mechanics combined with the current card pool makes Stage 2 Pokémon slow and expensive to run.  Not in terms of money (that varies card to card) but in game resources.  Some Types have shortcuts beyond stuff like Rare Candy and Wally, but Fire is not one of them.  Some Pokémon have specific shortcuts, but Infernape is not one of them.  It will have to posses some amazing attributes, effects, or both to stand a chance in the current metagame.  Its HP is neither a good nor a bad start; 130 HP is just at that point where I believe surviving a hit is more likely, not less.  Still, when you’re investing at least three cards and one turn (before Energy, Pokémon Tools, etc.), that is not a comfortable margin.  Water Weakness is terrifying right now; Greninja BREAK decks made a good showing at Worlds even if none of them won their brackets (one was even the runner-up for the Masters Division), and until Seismitoad-EX rotates it is still most definitely a “thing” in Standard (sometimes an opener, sometimes a focus).  Lack of Resistance is the norm and is specialized when it is present, so its absence is almost negligent.  Retreat Cost [C] is good and low, though “free” may have been merited. 

Infernape has two attacks, both of which cost [RR] up front but contain additional costs/requirements in their effect text.  The first is “Flare Blitz” which does 120 damage.  This is enough to build Volcanion-EX to the point where it OHKOs most of the competitive format, without getting overly complex or difficult.  The catch is that Flare Blitz discards all [R] Energy attached to itself; the only reason this isn’t more significant is that surviving an attack as Infernape is already iffy, plus Blacksmith can take an Infernape from “zero” to “attacking” in one go and you still have a manual Energy attachment to spare.  The next attack is “Flare Up”, originally intended to just be Firestar but as Hasbro was unable to secure the name, instead she became her protege… oh, that’s “Flareup”.  Flare Up does a phenomenal 200 damage but requires you have 10 [R] Energy cards in your discard pile to use, plus it shuffles those Energy back into your deck as the next part of the effect.  10 Energy is what most decks would run, which means you’ll have to run heavy to accommodate it even if you only use it as a last minute finisher.  We know from Night March that filling the discard pile once is no big deal, so between being on a Stage 2 and forcing you to redraw and discard all this Energy, Flare Up is not something you can easily abuse… but it does look like something you can use.  Flare Up is probably best reserved for things that even a buffed Flare Blitz will struggle to OHKO.  The two attacks compliment each other well; not perfectly, but Flare Blitz is a solid lead in to Flare Up, and Flare Up a solid cleaner for Flare Blitz. 

We should also take a look at Chimchar, Monferno and any other Infernape; I had to triple check because it is so hard to believe a “starter” isn’t being spammed, because we only have five additional cards to look at among those.  For the Basic Stage Chimchar we have BW: Plasma Storm 15/135 and XY: Steam Siege 18/114, for the Stage 1 Monferno we have BW: Plasma Storm 16/135 and XY: Steam Siege 19/114, and the other Infernape is BW: Plasma Storm 17/135, which I will refer to as “Infernape [Plasma]”.  All of these are Fire Types with Water Weakness, no Resistance, and no Abilities.  Chimchar (BW: Plasma Storm 15/135) has 50 HP, a Retreat Cost of [C], and the lone attack “Flare” which does 20 and requires [R].  Chimchar (XY: Steam Siege 18/114) has 60 HP, Retreat Cost [C], and two attacks: [C] pays for “Scratch” to do 10 damage while [RC] lets you use “Ember” to do 30 and flip a coin (“tails” means you have to discard a [R] Energy from Chimchar).  Both Monferno have 80 HP, Retreat Cost of [C], and two attacks. BW: Plasma Storm 16/135 can use “Loud Howl” for [C] to force your opponent to change out his or her Active, while for [RC] it can use “Fire Tail Slap” to do 50 damage, but has to discard an attached [R] Energy from itself.  XY: Steam Siege 19/114 brings back Scratch for [C] and Flare for [RC], this time doing 20 and 30 (respectively).  The job of these cards is to survive to Evolve or otherwise aide in your setup, but instead they attack for damage and… they aren’t even good at it.  Go with Chimchar (XY: Steam Siege 18/114) and whichever Monferno you feel like in case you get Item locked and can’t rely solely upon Rare Candy. 

Infernape [Plasma] is actually very, very similar to today’s regular Infernape; same Type, Stage, HP, Weakness, (lack of) Resistance, and it also has two attacks.  Being a Team Plasma Pokémon can be a huge benefit (due to Team Plasma support), or a huge problem (due to Team Plasma counters); the best Team Plasma counter is Silver Mirror protects the equipped Pokémon from the attacks of Team Plasma Pokémon, so you just need a convenient way to discard it (like Startling Megaphone, Tool Scrapper, or Xerosic) or alternate attacker, and Team Plasma decks aren’t overly strong in Expanded right now, so odds are low you’ll encounter it until a Team Plasma deck makes good again.  Team Plasma support is iffy; it all takes deck space and I’m not sure how much of it will really be needed in a hypothetical deck built around Infernape.  This might be largely a neutral trait after all.  The free Retreat Cost is the next difference and while not huge, it is still significant; you can happily promote Infernape and unless an effect is messing with Retreat Costs in general, not worry about it getting stuck up front.  The meat of the differences are the attacks, though again Infernape [Plasma] brings two. 

The first is “Torment”, which does 30 damage and allows you to name one of the attacks on the Defending Pokémon; it cannot use that attack next turn (at least not without finding a way to cancel out this effect).  For [RC] it can use “Malevolent Fire” to do 120 damage, though it has to discard all attached Energy from itself.  The CotD crew first looked at this card here and even though I thought I wrote one for this card, looks like it was during a stretch when I must have just failed to keep up.  Baby Mario and virusyosh covered the card accurately; it just couldn’t keep up at the time… but times change.  When this card first released, Pokémon Catcher worked like Lysandre as an Item, instead of being Pokémon Reversal by a new name (that is, requiring a coin flip).  The player going first could also attack.  Most important of all, this is pre-Volcanion-EX, Volcanion, and Blacksmith; Infernape [Plasma] could use Colress Machine with Plasma Energy and Deoxys-EX to pump up its attacks, plus it didn’t need to hit as large of numbers but the former is an Item/Special Energy combo and the latter only adds 10 damage.  Torment isn’t going to provide a good “hard lock” (one difficult to break), but it can be an effective, irritating soft lock in some matchups.  Malevolent Fire is as easy to power up as Flare Blitz, both in term of Energy attachments and buffs.  This actually should complement the modern version nicely. 

So while I don’t have a proven deck for you, if you want to experiment with Infernape, I think we just explained the groundwork: Volcanion as a beefy opener, Volcanion-EX to power up attacks, then a split line of Infernape and Infernape [Plasma].  You will still need a lot of basic Fire Energy (probably 12 to 14), but remember that Flare Up is something to save for stuff you can’t OHKO any other way, or because you need to recycle your Fire Energy.  The rest would be typical deck staples (actual, loose, or near), extra Energy search, Blacksmith, Scorched Earth, etc.  For Standard, the same deal but no Infernape [Plasma].  Standard post-rotation means a loss of Blacksmith, but Volcanion might be able to pick up the slack, plus the deck wouldn’t suffer too badly when facing decks that block Abilities; focus on Volcanion until Flare Up can take a massive OHKO.  Wait, if has that much promise why aren’t we already using it?  Well, I have no solutions for the Water Weakness, plus just because it is easy to list doesn’t mean it will be easy to set up in an actual game.  Still Infernape has potential, even if it goes unrealized like its predecessor.  For Limited play, this is a pretty amazing pull, but your deck will need to be almost mono-Fire Typed for it too work.  Luckily for Infernape, decks run heavier on basic Energy cards here so even though you’ll only have a 40 card deck, it isn’t odd that you’ll need your deck to be a quarter to half basic Energy; they often already are!  Just remember that you can’t “reload” for either attack very well! 

Ratings 

Standard: 2.5/5 

Expanded: 2.75/5 

Limited: 4/5 

Summary: The metagame is always the final arbitrator, but here it can easily shift the performance of Infernape.  It is a solid Stage 2 in a card pool where that isn’t impressive in the slightest, but should the Fire Weak decks start to outnumber the Water attackers, Infernape has its niche.  In fact the real threat might be other Fire Type decks crowding it out, as why use a Stage 2 to do what a Basic can (almost) do instead?  Still the flame of hope burns.  I mean I didn’t expect much out of M Audino-EX either… 

…if you hadn’t heard, M Audino-EX (possibly with Audino-EX) was the focus of the deck that won the 2016 Pokémon TCG World Championships.  You can see for yourself here.  Infernape made my Top 15 list but I don’t remember where: at the last minute I rearranged what I had, then cut it down to a Top 10.  We’ll be looking at some more runners up the rest of the week, including at least one that saw some play at Worlds. 


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