Next up as part of our set review marathon for Unbroken Bonds is Fire type Pokemon. This is part 2 of the series, with Grass Pokemon being covered in yesterday’s article.
This set has a total of 13 Fire type Pokemon in it, including 1 Tag Team Pokemon and 1 Ultra Beast.
The set also includes some Trainer cards that provide support to Fire Pokemon, which I will also discuss in this portion of the set review so that I can provide proper context when discussing these cards.
Fire Type Support Cards
First, let’s take a look at the Fire type support cards that we’ve received in previous sets.
In Burning Shadows we got Kiawe, which lets you search your deck for four Basic Fire Energy and attach them to one of your Pokemon, and then your turn ends. This was most popular in the Ho-Oh GX/Salazzle GX decks that saw play at the 2017 World Championship and intermittently since then. It also saw some play with Reshiram GX, although that deck never really found any success.
Players can continue to use Kiawe as an acceleration option on their first turn of the game.
The other old card worth taking a look at is Fiery Flint from Dragon Majesty.
This card has actually been rising in price as of late as players look to pick up playsets of this card in anticipation of Fire becoming good with the new support in this set.
This card lets you search your deck for four Fire Energy, which combos with all sorts of cards in this set, from Welder to Salazzle, as you will want lots of Fire Energy in your hand to take advantage of the effects of these cards.
While you probably want to pick up a playset of Fiery Flint if you plan on playing Fire decks, if you’re playing on a budget then the new card Fire Crystal from Unbroken Bonds should be good enough to get you by. In fact, it may just be the better card of the two, as the winning Reshiram & Charizard GX deck from Champions League Kyoto played three Fire Crystal and zero Fiery Flint.
This isn’t to say that it’s necessarily better, as plenty of other high performing lists played exclusively Fiery Flint, or a split between the two cards, but it does go to show that you don’t absolutely need Fiery Flint to be successful with these decks.
Fire Crystal gets you back three Fire Energy from your discard pile, making it better for Fire decks than Energy Retrieval, but worse than Superior Energy Retrieval in Expanded.
In general, I think Fire Crystal is the superior option to Fiery Flint as it can recycle resources throughout a game, and being able to have more resources is often better. However, if it’s a deck that wants to race to the finish line, then recycling resources may not be ideal and quickly burning through your deck could be what’s better, so which of the two you want to play between Fire Crystal and Fiery Flint will be deck dependent, but I think Fire Crystal would be my default option headed into building any Fire deck, and I would adjust to Fiery Flint if that’s what my testing indicates I should do.
I do think playing some amount of both is a strong play though. We’ve seen this in Blastoise decks where they play Professors’ Letter to get the Energy out of their deck as well as Superior Energy Retrieval to re-use it.
Fiery Flint does give you a more consistent early game, but the Fire Energy should be plentiful in most decks that want to play this card, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find Energy to get things going to make this a live card very early in the game.
The other major piece of Fire support in this set is Welder, which gives us an Energy acceleration option for Fire Pokemon in Standard.
We already have a point of reference with Blacksmith from Flashfire that Supporter based Energy Acceleration for two Energy is a strong effect, and Welder also draws you three cards, allowing it to fulfill both the role of Energy Acceleration and draw Supporter.
While Blacksmith is easier to continuously re-use in a game since it can keep taking the same two Energy out of the discard pile, with cards like Fire Crystal and Fiery Flint, it should be very easy to get the two Energy in hand to accelerate with Welder, and the three cards of draw you get with Welder should make it easier to have the other cards you need to execute your strategy.
There is plenty of support to make Welder work, and we already know from Japan’s format that Welder engines work very well, so it’s pretty safe to say that we now have the support to make some menacing Fire decks in Standard in the upcoming formats.
Reshiram & Charizard GX
The biggest chase card of the set is Reshiram & Charizard GX. At the current time, the regular GX is going for $33, the Full Art for around $50, and the Hyper Rare for $175. It’s pretty crazy that pulling one card could almost net you two booster boxes of the set in a trade.
A Reshiram & Charizard GX Figure Collection Box will release on August 9th, so the price of the card should come down in time for players who are looking to play it for the World Championship, a possible D.C. Open, or any other tournaments next season.
This card will enter the format with a ton of hype as it completely dominated the most recent Japanese tournament, Champions League Kyoto, taking first place, as well as taking up 25 of the Top 64 spots.
There was a lot of variety in the lists that did well in Japan, with the alternative attackers and support Pokemon included in the decks varying from player to player. The two constants that you saw from player to player were that at least one copy of Kiawe was played to provide early game acceleration, and then four copies of Welder were played alongside it to keep powering up attackers as the game went on.
This card is an absolute powerhouse, hitting for 230 damage with Flare Strike, which you could have up and running on turn 2 with Kiawe, or even the new Volcanion which I talk about below. This is super strong, as it will OHKO most Pokemon naturally, but can get to the needed damage against a lot of the Tag Team Pokemon as long as you have a Choice Band attached.
It is unable to use Flare Strike on back to back turns, but that’s alright. You can use a switching effect (into a Jirachi with Escape Board attached, for example) to re-use Flare Strike, or you could transition into one of your other attacks.
If the opponent did damage, but couldn’t knock it out with a OHKO, then you can use Outrage, possibly for your own OHKO, and deal that damage right back at them.
Alternatively, you could transition into Double Blaze GX, which does a very solid 200 damage. The added effect of the GX attack does 300 damage and goes through any effects. While 6 total Energy seems like a lot, if you used Flare Strike the turn before you will already have four, so just playing another Welder will get you to the six Energy needed, and the 300 damage will OHKO every Pokemon in format as long as they don’t have a modifier reducing damage or raising their HP.
The GX attack also allows you to go for a very aggressive start, being able to hit for 200 damage on the first turn of the game if you can pull off a Welder for two Energy along with another attachment.
At 270 HP, it will also be very difficult for Reshiram & Charizard GX to be knocked out in one hit, which means you should typically get multiple attacks off with it before it goes down. While some decks might be able to keep up with it, it’s easy to see how this could toss some meta game mainstays out of competitive viability.
I was initially concerned about the four Energy cost, and what that meant for streaming Reshiram & Charizard GX, but given that you lose the game if two get knocked out, it’s not a big deal, and you can transition to attackers like Victini Prism Star or Flareon GX in between your Reshiram & Charizard GX to gain you an extra turn to work on powering it up.
Between Reshiram & Charizard GX and the Charizard from Team Up, it’s a good time to be a Charizard fan in the Pokemon TCG.
While Venomoth GX was my sleeper to look out for among the Grass Pokemon, Arcanine is my sleeper to look out for among the Fire Pokemon.
It’s pretty easy to see how you could build a self contained Arcanine deck. The deck would have to be heavily reliant on Welder and using Pal Pad to recycle it, but I think there’s a good chance that with all the Fire support now available, it should be possible to stream these cards for most turns in a game.
You would power up your first Arcanine with Welder and an attachment. Then you could use Grand Flame to attach two Energy to your benched Arcanine. Then you can power up the benched Arcanine to use Heat Tackle with Welder on your next turn, or your active by attaching a fourth Energy to it.
While you will need to switch back to Grand Flame every now and then in a game because you can’t get to the four Energy for Heat Tackle, alternating between a 120 damage attack that accelerates two Energy, and a 190 damage bomb attack isn’t exactly a bad thing, especially with it all being contained to a non-GX Pokemon.
With Heat Tackle you can do 220 damage with Choice Band, which is a lot of damage for a non-GX. Against Stage 1 GX Pokemon, you should be able to take OHKO’s, which is obviously great. Against Tag Team Pokemon, you might not be able to get a OHKO, but you could create a positive prize exchange with your non-GX status.
The 50 damage to itself is a bit of a downer though, as it prevents it from being like a tank that it otherwise could be without that drawback.
Flare Starter is a very strong acceleration attack for when you go second in a game. While Kiawe probably outclasses it now, we will lose Kiawe in rotation, so Volcanion may be the go to first turn acceleration option in the post rotation format.
Being able to attach three Energy should allow you to get your Reshiram & Charizard GX, or whatever Fire attacker, you plan on using, powered up and ready to attack on turn two. Being able to spread the Energy across multiple Pokemon is very strong too and could allow you to setup your field to be a Welder away from attacking for the rest of the game all off of a single setup attack.
High-Heat Blast is also a powerful attack for two Energy. If you have four Fire Energy in play, which you should after Flare Starter, or which you can get into play with a second attachment and a Welder to a benched Pokemon, then you do 110 damage, which is great for going for 2HKO’s against GX Pokemon, or for taking OHKO’s on pre-evolution Pokemon and some non-GX Big Basic Pokemon, such as Zapdos.
Incineroar was one of the most powerful cards in the pre-release format and I believe it could be an important cards in upcoming formats, especially after rotation when Choice Band rotates.
Even with Choice Band, it is becoming more difficult for all Pokemon to hit the magic numbers they need for OHKO’s against more bulky Pokemon such as Tag Team Pokemon. You might notice when talking about a lot of these cards, they may be falling just a few damage short of taking a OHKO, and for cards like this, Incineroar could be what they needed to get them to hit the right amount of Energy.
Damage boosts have always been good, and at +30 damage, Incineroar is a very strong damage boost. At 160 HP, it’s also difficult for a lot of Pokemon to OHKO it, meaning that if you get it into play, in some matchups, it will be difficult to remove. Post rotation, when there are less gust effects, it should be easier to play as you don’t have to worry about it being relentlessly dragged up and knocked out, or having your basic Pokemon consistently dragged up and knocked out every game.
It is a Stage 2 though, so it would take a a lot of card slots and be slow to setup, and add inconsistency to decks playing it, so a good chance, despite it’s strong effect, that it doesn’t see competitive play.
Salazzle provides a strong draw engine for Fire decks with its Roast Reveal Ability. While it doesn’t appear to be popular in the current Reshiram & Charizard GX lists, that doesn’t mean other Fire decks won’t be able to better utilize it.
Salazzle is functionally a reprint of Ninetales from Heart Gold and Soul Silver / Call of Legends. Ninetales saw a decent amount of play for it’s Roast Reveal Poke-Power, most commonly found in Reshiphlosion decks, but it’s also worth noting that the community was split on whether it was worth playing or not, with plenty of good performing Reshiphlosion lists not playing it, or opting for the more powerful draw support option in Magnezone Prime.
It is also worth noting that the draw supporters were a lot better in that format. That format had Professor Juniper and Professor Oak’s New Theory in it, which gave decks powerful draw options. While Standard can match PONT with Cynthia, no draw supporter in Standard comes close to Professor Juniper, which is probably the best draw Supporter ever printed.
One really cool thing with Salazzle is that until rotation there is a nice little suite of different Salazzle cards that you can use alongside it. There is good incentive to play a 4-2/x/x line of Salazzle in the current format depending on your deck.
Salazzle from Burning Shadows could be used to hit for magic numbers with its Hot Poison Ability leaving the opponent’s Active Pokemon both Poisoned and Burned when you play Salazzle from your hand to evolve one of your Pokemon. The other option is Salazzle GX, which could be used for a big late game sweeper with its Diabolical Claws attack, which can now be powered up in a single turn with Welder.
The last Fire card worth mentioning is Blacephalon, or what will probably be known now as Baby Blacephalon.
Blazer is a decent one Energy attack to start a game off with. While I think there’s a decent chance you can build a list that gets Fireball Circus off for good damage on turn 1 and then streams it for the rest of the game, you still surely won’t be able to pull it off every game, so being able to get some prize knowledge, with a small chance of being able to do 60 damage, which could knockout some pre-evolution Pokemon, is an alright way to start the game.
Fireball Circus is the main attraction though, and it has the potential to be a very strong attack. With 4-6 Energy in hand to be discarded, you can OHKO a wide variety of Pokemon. Between Welder and Beast Ring, there are plenty of options to get Blacephalon powered up. With Fire Crystal and Fiery Flint, we have good options available for getting energy into hand for OHKO’s.
I think the most likely way this card will see play is with Salazzle, which would let you gather together large hand sizes that would give you the cards you need to get lots of Fire Energy into your hand allowing you to take big OHKO’s. I would expect any Blacephalon deck to be playing four Fire Crystal, and possible even four Energy Recycler as you will be burning through Energy, both with Salzzle and with your attack.
I don’t think Blacephalon has much potential as a non-GX attacker that can be used in GX decks to mix things up. I had thought about using it as a non-GX attacker in Blacephalon GX/Naganadel, but quickly came to the realization that a deck like that wouldn’t have many Fire Energy in hand all that often, so Blacephalon probably wouldn’t hit for any significant damage in a deck like that. In order to attack with Blacephalon effectively, I think the deck will have to be built almost entirely around it.
That’s it for the Fire section of the review. Check back soon for part 3, in which I will cover the Water Pokemon in the set.