Next up in our Unbroken Bonds set review series is the Water Pokemon. Previously, we have looked at the Grass and Fire Pokemon in the set. The links to those articles can be found below.
There are a total of 21 Water Pokemon in the set, including 1 Pokemon GX.
The Blastoise evolution line gets a buff with Wartortle’s Solid Shell Ability. This is now the best Wartortle available in Standard.
With a 20 damage reduction with Solid Shell, Wartortle is immune to Tapu Koko’s Flying Flip damage when on the bench, and also reduced Buzzwole GX’s Jet Punch damage to 10 as well. This Ability is also useful for helping Wartortle survive an early game attack when active. Zapdos, for example, wouldn’t be able to cleanly OHKO a Wartortle, so if the Zapdos player whiffs the Electropower, they would fall short of a knockout.
Aqua Slash is also a solid attack, doing 60 damage, which could be used to take knockouts against a 60 HP or less pre-evolution Pokemon on turn 2 of the game.
With Squirtle from Team Up also having a useful Ability, it appears Pokemon is trying to give Blastoise decks some small buffs to improve their viability.
While Fire is the hyped type for the set, Blastoise GX packs every bit of OHKO power of the best Fire cards in the set. It is a Stage 2 though, which makes it a lot slower to get into play than a Basic like Reshiram & Charizard GX, but once you get it into play and get the rest of your setup going then Blastoise GX is going to be a major force to deal with.
With 240 HP and Solid Shell reducing damage received by 30, Blastoise GX will be a tank that is difficult to knockout for any non-Grass deck.
Once you get your Water Energy into play, Rocket Splash can hit for some big OHKO’s on your opponent’s Pokemon, being able to hit for 240 damage if you shuffle four Water Energy in, and even 300 damage if you choose to shuffle five Water Energy in.
The Blastoise from Team Up has the most synergy with this card, as it can take advantage of you refilling your deck with Water Energy to get some big uses of its Power Squall Ability off.
However, needing to split your Blastoise line between two different evolutions is probably inconsistent and difficult to pull off, especially as you would likely want to devote two of your evolution lines to the non-GX and two to the GX, and prizing one Squirtle would only allow you to devote a single evolution line to one of the two until you pull your fourth Squirtle out of the prizes.
However, it is possible that Articuno from Team Up could be utilized early game to protect your Water Pokemon, providing you with more time to setup the powerful dual Blastoise field you need to properly take advantage of Blastoise GX.
With those difficulties in mind, it could be best for players to look elsewhere on how to get the Energy into play. Aqua Patch, Beast Ring, and Naganadel are some of the solid options in Standard for getting Energy into play.
In Expanded, there is an easier fit available, as you can fit Blastoise GX into Archiestoise lists and get it into play on your second Archies of the game. There is some early hype around replacing Kingdra GX with Blastoise GX in Archiestoise lists. My early opinion would be that I still like Kingdra GX better as it doesn’t remove the Energy from play. With Ability lock being prominent in Expanded, having a big hitter that you can power up in one turn and then keep that Energy in play and that attacker powered up seems stronger than a Pokemon who shuffles the Energy back into the deck, even if it has a more powerful attack and is more difficult to knockout.
The counterpoint is that you could load Blastoise GX up with enough Energy for two big attacks, and then shuffle in half your Energy on the first attack, and then half the Energy on the second attack. You wouldn’t be able to pull off getting 7-8 Energy on it all the time though, so Kingdra GX still may be the better option, even if this is the approach you do choose to take.
Poliwag’s Round ‘n’ Round attack can slow down your opponent at the start of the game by making it more difficult for your opponent’s Pokemon to attack as they would have to flip for Confusion to see if they can attack.
It’s not a super useful Ability as your opponent can switch, retreat, or evolve out of the effect, but any small thing like this does improve a deck, even if it’s only by a small amount.
Poliwrath might be a non-GX worth looking to build a deck with. With Swirly Rush, you can do 180 damage if you have a Poliwag and Poliwhirl on your bench. With Choice Band, you should be able OHKO all of the regular GX Pokemon that see play in the meta while still being able to create positive prize trades against Tag Team Pokemon with a 2HKO.
With Aqua Patch and Double Colorless Energy, we can power up Swirly Rush in a single turn.
This card probably is too costly to end up being played much. You need to hit a lot of different cards to get a Poliwrath setup to do the boosted damage output.
Not only do you need to get a new Poliwrath to attack with, but you also need to draw into the Energy to power up the attack, and also a new Poliwag and Poliwhirl on your bench.
Poliwrath does have 150 HP though, so a lot of decks won’t be able to OHKO it easily. Against these decks, you wouldn’t need to hit all those cards in the same turn. However, against decks that can hit the damage output to OHKO it, then it’s going to be too slow to keep up.
Slowbro’s Three Strikes attack is an enormously fun attack that can swing a game your way if you can hit it out of the park with your coin flips.
With Aqua Patch in format, you can power it up in a single turn with an Aqua Patch and Double Colorless Energy attachment.
Here’s the math for the attack:
- 37.5% probability for 100 damage
- 37.5% probability for 200 damage
- 12.5% probability for 300 damage
- 12.5% probability you lose the game!
12.5% probability of losing the game is too high to justify trying to play a deck built around it, but at that probability, it could be an okay tech in Water decks playing Ditto Prism star as a potential come back card in games you’re losing and need a big momentum swing to turn around.
If you actually want to build a deck around it, then playing Victory Star Victini, which came out in Guardians Rising is going to be a necessary inclusion to avoid losing the game too often off three tails flips.
If you only re-flip attacks with three tails, then you would have around a 1.5% probability of losing the game on any given turn. Six straight tails is very difficult to do. Impossible? Definitely not, and you will lose plenty of games off of that if you play this card enough.
I don’t think this card is well suited for tournament play as it’s far too luck based, and most players will want to play something that they have more control over. It might see some very niche play in Water decks as a comeback tech to evolve off of Ditto Prism Star.
Dewgong doesn’t look like much on your first take, and it really isn’t all that, but it has some okay uses.
Tail Whip doing 60 damage for a Double Colorless Energy attachment makes Dewgong a good splashable tech against Fire decks. With a Choice Band, it does 180 damage against Fire GX Pokemon, which is a good amount of damage.
This damage output is perfect for taking OHKO’s on Blacephalon GX, although it falls short of dealing with something like Reshiram & Charizard GX, so I don’t think it’s something you can rely on as any type of counter to that deck, although it should be great against Blacephalon GX decks.
Dual Blizzard can be a strong attack when you go first and get an attachment down on your Seel or Ditto Prism Star on turn 1. Against evolution decks, if they’re playing 60 HP Basic Pokemon, that could be two knockouts to start the game, devastating your opponent’s setup.
Without it being able to take a OHKO on Reshiram & Charizard GX, it’s probably not worth it to run Dewgong in competitive decks, unless you’re using it to counter Blacephalon GX decks. Its damage output is too weak for dealing with Reshiram & Charizard GX, which gives that deck the opportunity to figure out counter play against this card.
The last card worth looking at is Kyurem. Its Hail Prison attack is costly, but it does 110 damage and automatically paralyzes the opponent’s Active Pokemon, and automatic paralysis is always a strong effect.
Paralysis is a bit worse than it usually is in the current format, because of Guzma and Escape Board existing, but post rotation, Special Conditions should be better with Guzma rotating at the very least.
The best way to play this right now is going to be in Naganadel/Quagsire. In this deck you would be able to complete a self sustaining loop in which you discard the Energy with Kyurem, get the Energy back into play with a pair of Naganadel, and then move it back to Kyurem with Quagsire.