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Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day

 

Ilima
- Sun & Moon

Date Reviewed:
March 14, 2017

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Standard: 3
Expanded: 2
Limited: 4.5

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

Back to the main COTD Page


aroramage

Ilima...man, what can be said about Ilima? He exists. He's the first trial captain. He specializes in Normal-type Pokemon. What more could you ask for? 

I suppose a better card, BA-DUM, TSH!! 

Ilima the Supporter is basically N-Lite. His effect forces both players to shuffle their hands back into their decks, and then each player flips a coin and draws cards based on the result. Heads yields 6 cards while Tails yields 3. It's not a guaranteed amount, and there's no main benefit to playing this card later in the game than earlier, as the chances of either of you getting the desired result is a 50/50. Still, that doesn't mean Ilima's absolutely useless; he could potentially bring you out of a dead hand, and combining the Tails result with additional draw power from cards like Shaymin-EX, Octillery (BKT), and Bicycle (PLS) in Expanded can easily offset the overall lack of cards you get. 

Of course, both players want Heads, considering that's more cards to play around with than 3, but you win some, you'll lose some. Ilima has the potential to see competitive play, but I don't think he'll be played in quite the same way as N. Reshuffling your hand into your deck does at least refresh the options you have, and if you have less than 3 cards in your hand to begin with, well then you stand to profit off of Ilima anyway! The optimal play is to put Ilima on the board when you've got little to no cards in hand while your opponent has a lot, which probably won't happen that often in your opponent's case but can easily happen to you.

Give him a whirl and see how he fits into all of this! 

Rating 

Standard: 3/5 (there's a bit of potential with Ilima that's not going to be tapped into until N's out of the picture) 

Expanded: 2/5 (and he is outclassed by a fair number of other draw Supporters)

Limited: 4.5/5 (but given that he's in the most recent set to date, he'll probably end up seeing play sooner or later in the next couple of years, so be prepared!)

Arora Notealus: Ilima's an...okay dude. I mean there's not too much to know, but he does get a bit more development than a couple of the other captains, so that's a plus of sorts. Nothing too special honestly...though I'll be honest, the pink hair threw me off and I thought he was a gal. 

Next Time: Graceful, elegant, slender, dragon.


21times

Ilima (Sun & Moon, 146/159) is a brand new draw support / disruption card.  After playing this card, both players shuffle their hands back into their decks and then flip a coin (I initially thought this involved a single coin flip, but I was mistaken – each player determines his or her own fate).  If heads, that players draws six cards, if tails three.

I tested this in eighteen matches, playing six games each with the following decks:

Darkrai- EX(Breakpoint, 118/122) Dragonair (Sun & Moon, 95/149) (spoiler – Dragonair review tomorrow!)

Tauros-GX (Sun & Moon, 144/149) Hammers

Decidueye-GX (Sun& Moon, 12/149) Vileplume (Ancient Origins, 3/98

I played Ilima nine times with the Darkrai deck, eleven times with the Tauros deck, and seven times with the Decidueye deck.  I went 2-4 in matches with the Darkrai deck, but 4-2 with both the Tauros and Decidueye decks.  I feel that it best fits with the Tauros Hammers deck, a deck in which I run a ton of disruption cards.  I ran four Ilima in each of these decks.  My draw supporters were four Professor Sycamore (Steam Siege, 114/114) and four Ilima in each of these decks.  I did actually choose Ilima over Sycamore three times.  I had only ten cards left in my deck one time and needed draw support but wanted to avoid taking seven cards.  The other two times I did not want to discard all of the valuable cards in my hand.  I did, however, choose to play Sycamore over Ilima six times, and there’s no question in my mind that Sycamore remains the superior support card, the best draw support card in the game.

I think my initial reaction to this card mirrors that of the general population of players: the variability, the randomness of this card simply makes it unplayable.  In the month plus since the release of Sun & Moon, I have never seen a player use it even a single time.  I certainly had never even considered playing it in any of my decks.

But I think I can make a case for it.

Stick with me here for a second: what’s the worst part of this card?  That you get three cards and your opponent gets six.  That’s the doomsday scenario, but that only happens 25% of the time.  If you rationally think about it, for every four times you play the card, the worst possible outcome will only occur one time.

And as for your end of the disaster scenario, getting three cards – it occurred to me about three matches into my testing that if I teched in Octillery (Breakthrough, 33/162), then if I flip tails, I can simply use Abyssal Hand to bring myself up to five cards.  Therefore, instead of the average return of cards being 4.5, the average becomes 5.5.  If you look at it from this perspective, this is the exact same average that playing Professor Birch’s Observations (Primal Clash, 159/160) provides.  Moreover, a few months ago I did a fairly extensive study on N (Noble Victories, 101/101).  I found that the average number of cards I drew after playing N was 5.58 cards, just slightly more than Birch.

With Octillery, Ilima is just as good a draw supporter as N and Birch.

Now, let’s consider your opponent’s side of the coin.  In half of the cases, you have essentially hit him or her with an Ace Trainer (Ancient Origins, 69/98).  Unfortunately, if he or she flips heads, your opponent gets six cards.  However, referencing my above study on N, we know that the average number of cards that your giving your opponent with N is 5.58, and the average number of cards your opponent gets from Ilima is 4.5, a whole card less than N.  Think of it this way: if you play N ten times, you’re probably giving your opponent 56 cards.  If you play Ilima ten times, they’re only getting 45 cards. 

From this perspective, Ilima is a better card than N.

Obviously, the key factor here is getting Octillery set up.  Without Octillery, I can’t say that Ilima is better than N or Birch.  A 1-1 line of Octillery is inconsistent, but a 2-2 line takes up four card slots, which seems to be counterproductive and feels like I’m trying to force Ilima into my deck.  However, with Octillery on the bench, Ilima provides you with as many cards as N  or Birch while adding a level of disruption that Birch does not have and is better than N.

Rating

Standard: 3 out of 5

Summary

I thought that this was going to be a slam dunk, no way, don’t play this card, it stinks, but after testing it and giving it some deep thought, I think this might be better than all the other draw support cards available that are not called Professor Sycamore.  It’s tough because it’s clearly a case where my brain is saying, “I think this could be good, the logic is there,” but my gut is telling me, “Don’t do it, you know you’re going to get the doomsday scenario every time.”  Either way, I’m glad I did this review because it certainly opened my eyes and pointed out once again the importance of not simply dismissing a card based upon my initial reaction and making sure that I give as much objective due diligence as I can to card evaluation.

 

On this Pi Day, we look at Ilima (Sun & Moon 121/149, 146/149), one of the new Supporters based on the character of the same name from the latest Pokémon games, a Trial Captain specializing in Normal Types… which has nothing to do with the card’s actual effect.  There aren’t many relevant effects that apply to all Trainer cards; only Dowsing Machine, Skyla, and Trainers’ Mail spring to mind, and of those three, only the last is likely to really matter for most decks.  There aren’t a lot of general Trainer counters, nor are there many general Supporter counters, and what exist for either has (thankfully) never proven competitive.  The big thing here is that, even before we look at the specific effect of Ilima, we know he’ll be competing with all other Supporters directly.  It can be easy to forget how constraining it can be, only being allowed to use a Supporter once during your turn.  As soon as you do, all your other Supporter cards are effectively dead cards until your next turn; too many and you’ll clutter your hand, too few and you’ll be wasted that turn’s usage.  Supporters tend to be more effective in Expanded, because you have the amazing combo of Battle Compressor and VS Seeker at your disposal, at least when not facing an Item lock tactic.  These two allow you easy access to any Supporter in your deck, whether it is maxed out or a single.  Standard play still features VS Seeker, but low count Supporters lack an efficient tutor to claim them from your deck.

Now that we have firmly established what it will cost us to use Ilima just by him being a Supporter, let us examine his actual effect.  The good news is that there are no built in additional costs or restrictions; unless your opponent actually does run one of those few Trainer or Supporter blocking effects, you’ll always have the chance to play Ilima, though that doesn’t mean you’ll always want or need the effect.  Ilima forces both players to shuffle their hand into their respective deck.  After that, you each flip a coin; if a player flips “heads”, he or she draws six cards, while “tails” means that player draws only three.  This means four possible outcomes, each with the same probability of occurring.  If both players flip “tails”, each will end up with a three card hand, while if both flip “heads”, each is rewarded with a six card hand.  If your opponent gets “heads” while you get “tails”, you’ll bestow upon them a six card hand, while your own will be only three cards.  If your opponent flips “tails” and you flip “heads”, you’ll leave them with a three card hand while you enjoy a six card hand.  No matter what, both players will have their hands changed out, potentially interrupting long term planning.  I say “potentially”, because whether it is the three or the six card hand, a player may draw exactly what he or she needs (or what they may use to get what is needed).  Most of the time, you’ll hope to draw six while your opponent draws three, but sometimes you’ll need to shrink your own hand size or increase your opponent’s. 

When I assigned this card for today, I foolishly thought I could do it justice with a relatively short review.  I was wrong.  Besides my own tendency to belabor a point, this card keeps defying my expectations, which have changed since first seeing it, to my second time considering it, to yet a third time looking at it, to now after I’ve just barely begun to try using it.  I actually had to trade to get a copy, as Ilima doesn’t apparently like me and as such hasn’t shown up in any Sun & Moon boosters I’ve opened.  As a Supporter, Ilima competes most with other Supporters, specifically other shuffle-and-draw Supporters.  There are five Standard-legal options I believe warrant a direct comparison, plus something quite a bit older that should prove illuminating, and several that I realized were relevant as I wrote.  Before we get into specifics, however, I’m going to touch upon the general state of such Supporters in both Standard and Expanded play.  For Standard, we’ve got room for a third go-to draw card; Professor Sycamore being the primary choice, with N being the secondary.  We’ll be discussing N a bit more, as he and Ilima appear to be in the same vein of Supporters.  In Expanded play, Colress or a more deck specialized Supporter usually fill the go-to place I have described, so Ilima will face stiffer competition there. 

There are three things to focus on when seeking which Supporters compete most directly with Ilima: how it has you shuffle and draw, how it has your opponent shuffle and draw, and how the effect relies upon a coin flip.  Shauna is a shuffle-and-draw Supporter still legal for Standard play.  Few decks make use of her, despite wanting a shuffle-and-draw effect, because she’s only giving you a five card draw.  While not bad, it has not proven good enough for competitive play.  She may have shown up in a few winning decklists - I lack the time to comb through all that have been made available since the release of Shauna - but from various other shuffle-and-draw effects, it seems like six cards is the magic number, the point where whiffing on what you need reaches an acceptable threshold.  It was actually the release of Shauna that proved this to me, as I’d hoped she’d prove adequate, but after giving her a try I learned what I just wrote. 

The other major shuffle-and-draw Supporter in Standard also depends upon a coin flip: Professor Birch’s Observations.  He has you shuffle away your hand and flip a coin: “heads” means a robust seven card draw, while “tails” means you only draw four cards.  If what I just pointed out about Shauna wasn’t enough to tell you that a four card draw is undesirable, remember that the designers created Red Card, an Item that forces your opponent to shuffle and draw four cards, and it actually is a useful bit of disruption more decks would run if they had the room, and/or Item lock wasn’t such a threat.  Professor Birch’s Observations is great about half the time; the seven card draw is usually amazing, and there are some tricks to lessen the sting of the seven card draw, but he’s just a step or two above Shauna in terms of successful, competitive usage.  He’s also the only coin flip based Supporter I recall proving remotely good; a few gimmick based decks have tried the only other one I recall, Hooligans Jim & Cas, but that one did nothing on a “tails”, while “heads” shuffled away three random cards from your opponent’s hand while forcing your opponent to reveal what was being shuffled away.  Ilima draws one less than Professor Birch’s Observations on either result, so if you don’t need the disruption effect, he’s competition.  At least both he and Professor Birch’s Observations show the designers learned from Hooligans Jim & Cas; a Supporter that risks doing nothing just on a coin flip is a real hard sell.  Even with two desirable effects, it has the drawback of not being sure which one you’ll get anytime you play the card. 

Next, we’ll look at Ace Trainer, Judge, and N.  These are the three closest to Ilima in overall effect, as each involves both players shuffling away their respective hand before drawing a new one.  Ace Trainer has you draw six while your opponent draws three but it may only be used while you have more Prize cards left to claim than your opponent.  I don’t recall any Standard-legal cards that can increase how many Prize cards a player has left in play, so out of 36 possible Prize combinations, Ace Trainer may only be used in 15 of the 36.  Judge has you each draw four cards; nothing more, and nothing less.  N has the most variable of results because it has each player draw a number of cards equal to his or her remaining Prize cards; that means there are 36 possible outcomes for N!  The range is from each player shuffling and drawing six to each player shuffling and drawing one card.  With all of these, you know the result you’ll get when you play them (or if you can use it at all, in the case of Ace Trainer), but the only totally reliable one is Judge; you know you can use it and you know while building your deck exactly how many cards it will draw for both you and your opponent.  That is not the entire story, however, as N draws that heavily desired six cards until you take your first Prize.  One Prize taken still means as much draw power as Shauna, while two means as much as Judge or Professor Birch’s Observations on a “tails” result.  Not great individually, but collectively pretty good. 

Ace Trainer and Judge still see some competitive play but are pretty niche.  Ace Trainer is usually used alongside N, in decks that are slow to take Prizes or which don’t take them at all (like Mill).  You enjoy bountiful shuffle while messing with your opponent.  In the case of Ace Trainer, it also helps you use it a lot more often than the less than half of the time suggested by Prize combinations.  Decks that need to shrink your own hand and/or hit a specific amount of cards in hand (to combo with other effects) give Judge a home, usually alongside N.  Four cards, as I’ve already stated, is low enough that it can be seen as a penalty, but it is high enough not to be a severe one.  Another aspect of N in general usage is that eventually, the disruption gets to be strong.  Some decks intentionally include a countermeasure, like Oranguru or just careful deck thinning, to counter late game usage of N, which also helps their own usage of the card.  These help Judge as well, but your exact mileage may vary; N can leave you with as little as one card, so Oranguru and its “Instruct” Ability (as well as similar draw effects) are easier to combo with than Judge late game.  Octillery (XY: BREAKthrough 33/162) isn’t as easy to include as Oranguru, but its “Abyssal Hand” draws even more.  I haven’t made my obligatory reference to Shaymin-EX (XY: Roaring Skies 77/108, 106/108), a card that I can almost never not mention because of its impact on the game, thanks to its “Setup” Ability.  You have to luck into a Shaymin-EX after using a shuffle-and-draw effect, but Octillery can already be on your Bench. 

Where we come back to Ilima is that the same effects which hedge against a late game N also help with “tails” flips.  This is good for you when your coin flip comes up “tails”, but it means your opponent may also have a way to reduce the impact of his or her own hand being shrunk to three cards.  Still, it is better for him or her to have to use up Instruct right away, instead of saving it for after playing a few cards, or to have to risk a late game Professor Sycamore that may trash something your opponent would rather save and/or bring your opponent much closer to decking out.  Ilima is, like Judge, something you’ll always be able to try, but unlike any of those three, you won’t know the outcome until you’ve played the card.  So does Ilima deserve a spot in your deck?  Maybe in Standard play.  For Expanded, I think you have enough better options.  Ilima seems decent enough to give him a shot in Standard, with decks that can work with the smaller hand and/or are desperate for a way to force the opponent to draw getting a better return.  Mill may provide the best niche; Ace Trainer always forces you to draw more than your opponent, so even in a build that never takes Prizes, it may backfire a little too often; under such circumstances so would N.  I don’t see much use for this card in Expanded play, because we’ve got Colress for another shuffle-and-draw option, while Hugh handles the niche usage of forcing the opponent to draw or synchronizing hand size, plus it can force the opponent to discard cards from hand as well (useful for some mill decks).  For Limited play, any draw is welcome, though even here the risk of helping the opponent can be a concern. 

Before we move onto the scores, I want to share with you a card that arguably does what Ilima is trying: Team Galactic’s Wager.  It also forced both players to shuffle hand into deck, but instead of Prize counts or coin flips, the result was determined by Rock-Paper-Scissors.  Rock-Paper-Scissors is known by many names; I’ll be referring to it as janken because I’ll need to reference the act a few more times.  Janken is a bit of an odd thing because of how it both is and is not another simple randomizer.  There are three possible outcomes for each player to pick, each always beating or losing to one other sign and tying with itself.  The skill factor comes in from reading your opponent well, not just body language but also having an idea of how he or she thinks.  No, I don’t mean throwing your own hand sign late, after seeing what your opponent picked; that’s just flat out cheating.  Team Galactic’s Wager was our number one card from 2007 for the Pokémon TCG.  I think that was even our first yearly Top 10 list, and its placement annoyed some of the reviewers; I don’t know if they were just bad at janken or focused on the fact that one of the top decks of the time included the kind of effect that could offset the 3-card draw result if you hit yourself with it (a legitimate concern!).  Ilima strikes me as the spiritual successor to this card, sacrificing that bit of janken skill to make things appropriately luck based: coin flipping can also be a skill, but the Pokémon TCG does not intend it to be and has rules to greatly reduce the capacity of a player to influence the results.  

Ratings 

Standard: 3/5 

Expanded: 2.25/5 

Limited: 4/5 

Summary 

Some players just cannot stand using cards that require coin flips; we already have luck-of-the-draw and luck-of-the-matchup adding variance to the game, so resorting to a randomizer is the last thing such players want to do.  I still have a bad taste in my mouth from too many formats where the amount and/or importance of the coin flips left a bad taste.  Some people love trusting their fate to the coin (or as is usually the case, the die).  We all need to look past that to properly evaluate Ilima, and I had a hard time of it.  I had to trade to get a copy to test with on the PTCGO, and few people are running it, so my first-hand experience is almost non-existent… but there were a few times when it was handy. 

In fact, as a general usage card, it isn’t bad.  Besides bias, its big problem is there is usually an alternative.  There isn’t much need for Ilima in Expanded play, but it might be a nice option for Standard.  In particular, I have some mill decks which still need to give it a go.  If your deck is already taking countermeasures against N (whether yours or your opponent’s), the big drawback of this card isn’t so big.  I was intrigued when I first saw Ilima and awarded him a “C+”, then dropped it to a “C-” on the second look because of the dreaded coin flips.  After going through all that, the numerical Standard score converts to a straight “C”, marking it as average.  It isn’t good in the typical deck, but it isn’t bad, and some can really take advantage of it.  Plus, if we get to a point where the top deck is running heavy Octillery, we really need to remember Ilima.


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