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Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day

 

Zapdos
- XY: Evolutions

Date Reviewed:
Nov. 21, 2016

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Standard: 2.5
Expanded: 2.5
Limited: 3.75

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

Back to the main COTD Page


Otaku

Salutations readers!  This week we’ll only be having reviews on Monday and Friday, as Thursday will be the United States of America’s observance of Thanksgiving.  It also gives me an excuse to put Zapdos (XY: Evolutions 42/108) on the review schedule.  I’ve never fried a turkey, but I expect this is close enough. 

 

Right, lame jokes aside Zapdos is a Lightning Type.  In Standard play, we’ve been hurting for a competitive Lightning Type deck, perhaps because Lightning Weakness is somewhat widespread.  The chunk of the Colorless Type that represents the video game Flying Type typically has Lightning Weakness, and often we’ll see it pop up on another Type where the Pokémon in question would be part Flying in the video games.  Some of the BW-era Water Types are also Lightning Weak, and a few other oddballs.  I almost always have reason to bring up Shaymin-EX (XY: Roaring Skies 77/108, 106/108) and it’s probably the most famous and widespread example of Lightning Weakness.  The Types best tricks haven’t been enough to make them competitive in Standard, though in Expanded they’ve got at least a few representatives that field formerly (possibly currently) competitive archetypes.  Lightning Resistance is a thing, but only on some BW-era Fighting Types, and there aren’t any noteworthy anti-Lightning Type effects. 

Being a Basic is something for which Zapdos ought to be grateful; not that it is supposed to be another Stage, it is just the game really favors Basics over the other Stages right now.  They take the least space to run, least time to put into play, can be your opening Pokémon, can tap potent Basic Stage support, and even enjoy a certain synergy with various card effects.  The only drawback to being a Basic is that the designers have kept certain anti-Basic effects in the card pool.  Zapdos has 110 HP; the max we see on non-Evolving Basic Pokémon is currently 140, so 30 under isn’t bad.  110 is not enough to reliably survive a hit, but it isn’t too terrible either; I’d say about a 50-50 shot.  No Weakness is the best Weakness and a welcome sight, as is the Fighting Resistance.  Yes some cards punish Resistance and it isn’t the strongest of mechanics, but it is still nice to see.  The Retreat Cost of [CC] is low enough you can afford to pay (and recover from having paid) it but high enough you’d prefer not to; pack a few extra alternatives to manually retreating at full price. 

Zapdos has two attacks.  The first is “Thunder” for [LLCC] and allows Zapdos to do 90 damage to the opponent’s Active and 30 to itself.  This is badly overpriced or underpowered; in fact it is both as this is the less expensive of the two attacks, the “fast” one.  For the Energy and self-damage involved, this attack should probably do about 150 damage.  “Thunderbolt” is the second attack, and for [LLLL] and discarding all Energy from Zapdos itself the attack does 170 damage.  This too is overpriced or underpowered but it hits a key damage threshold.  I used to treat each Energy discarded as if it was an additional Energy requirement, but with the current pacing a discard cost is utterly meaningless when the attacker gets KO’d the next turn.  200 damage seems like it would have been fair (and adequate) in the current metagame, but if you can readily supply the Energy required then the second attack could prove worthwhile.  170 hits hard enough to OHKO a good chunk of the metagame, while a Fighting Fury Belt both increases odds of surviving a hit and crosses the next key threshold.  Thunder could take advantage of off Type Energy acceleration like Double Colorless Energy, but it won’t do Thunderbolt any good (and would still be discarded!) so it isn’t recommended. 

Currently we have a few other options for Zapdos: BW: Next Destinies 41/99 (also available as BW: Legendary Treasures 46/113) and XY: Roaring Skies 23/108 (also available as Generations 29/83).  Both are also Basic, Lightning Type Pokémon with Fighting Resistance, Retreat Cost [CC], no Ability, no Ancient Trait, and two attacks.  Both have 120 HP (10 more than today’s version) and Lightning Weakness (unlike today’s Zapdos).  BW: Next Destinies 41/99 can use “Random Spark” for [LCC] to hit the one of the opponent’s Pokémon (your choice) for 50 damage.  For [LCCC] it can use “Thundering Hurricane” to flip four coins, each good for 50 damage per “heads”.  This card hasn’t aged well mostly in the damage department; 50 for three is low even though it allows you to snipe the Bench or hit the Active, and the average of 100 damage for four Energy as already mentioned is low now.  It was reviewed here.  XY: Roaring Skies 23/108 can do 20 for [L] with its “Drill Peck” (a bit low but not bad) or 120 for [LLC] plus 40 to one of your own Benched Pokémon via “Raging Thunder” (good damage for the Energy, drawback is manageable).  XY: Roaring Skies 23/108 never saw much success in competitive play, but it really is a solid card on paper; I suspect it’s mostly a matter of timing.  Namely when it hit we didn’t need another Lightning Type Basic attacker (even a non-Pokémon-EX), and even if we did we then got a replacement a little while later in the form of Raikou (XY: BREAKthrough 55/162).  We looked at XY: Roaring Skies 23/108 here. 

Do either of those Zapdos help today’s see play?  Nope.  Do they compete with it for deck space?  Not really; maybe XY: Roaring Skies 23/108 does a little but the true competition may be Raikou.  So… exactly where would they be competing?  In Expanded Eelektrik (BW: Noble Victories 40/101) might consider our new Zapdos; this is actually multiple decks it’s “Dynamotor” Ability has fueled a couple different attackers over the years.  Raikou and Gallade (XY: BREAKthrough 84/162) are the current favorites.  Zapdos acts more like Rayquaza-EX (BW: Dragons Exalted 85/124, 123/124; BW: Black Star Promos BW47), an older partner that focused on OHKOs via discarding large quantities of Energy from itself while it attacked.  Rayquaza-EX is better than Zapdos at the job, able to take down much larger targets, but Zapdos is of course only worth a single Prize and operates purely with [L] Energy (Rayquaza-EX needs at least one [R]).  Getting [LLLL] attached even with Dynamotor can be quite the feat if you’re trying to pull it off in a single turn, but if you’ve got time to prepare the hit ahead of time while say Raikou is up front doing its thing, seems plausible.   

Magnezone (XY: BREAKthrough 54/162) is another option.  Its Ability allows you to attach as many [L] Energy from your hand to your Pokémon as you wish in a turn (before you attack, of course).  This allows Thunderbolt turn after turn, with a couple different options like Energy Retrieval, Fisherman, and/or Starmie (XY: Evolutions 32/108) to help with the reloading.  Another possible option may be to rely upon Max Elixir and Electrode (XY: Evolutions 40/108).  Giving up a Prize is pretty steep, but if you can keep Zapdos alive through to the next turn (Fighting Fury Belt helps with that) you try for a favorable Prize trade against Basic Pokémon-EX.  Of course, reloading is horribly difficult and so Raikou makes much more sense.  Still, perhaps a single would work.  These two decks are long shots, but they are also Standard legal.  For Limited play, definitely go ahead and run this if your deck can run on mostly or only Lightning Energy; ideally you can build it while something else is attacking up front, without needing additional Energy attachments and without being KO’d.  If you get a lot of other stuff worth running that needs different Energy Types, probably skip Zapdos in favor of them. 

Ratings 

Standard: 2.5/5 

Expanded: 2.5/5 

Limited: 3.75/5 

Summary: Zapdos is about using Thunderbolt for OHKOs; the damage actually strikes me as a bit low since you’re attaching and tossing [LLLL] with each use, but 170 damage (+10 with Fighting Fury Belt) allows you to take down quite a bit in a single hit.  Its scores aren’t straightforward; it might help some of the otherwise lesser forms of [L] Energy acceleration to finally make good in Standard, where as it faces more competition for the proven [L] Type decks in Expanded play. 

Zapdos would have taken 13th place had our Top 10 list gone a little further.  It only received one voting point, and that came from me as I had it as my 10th place pick.  It actually tied with 12th place, and as I’m not sure if we’ll ever get around to reviewing it, I’ll just say right now that was Starmie BREAK.


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