Poison in the the standard meta
Between turns, put a damage counter on a poisoned Pokemon. A single damage counter is not much, in fact, with HP of 170-180 on most regular Pokemon EX and 210-220 on most Mega Pokemon EX, 10 damage a turn is neglectable at best. Even on some Basic Pokemon like Volcanion and Yveltal with HP of 130, 10 damage a turn is not much of an issue. Nonetheless, in this article, I will dig deeper into what applications poison has in the current Meta, building fun decks around it, and more.
When I think of poison in the Pokemon TCG, the first card that comes to my mind is Ariados
With a tiny 70HP as a stage 1, weak 30 damage for 2 energy with a near useless effect and a weakness to the currently very popular Volcanion, this Pokemon sounds terrible at first. However its ability + typing is what makes it the star gimmick of some decks and the main card to apply poison. Once per turn, you poison BOTH active Pokemon, unless they are Grass type. This gives you a free poison effect on most enemies just for having this Pokemon on the field. Evolving Ariados is easy too, as you can easily search it from the deck with Level Ball and Ultra Ball. Either you get your “free poison” by turn 2, or by playing Forest Of Giant Plants and get it going right away.
So why do I go so in depth about this specific card, when before i said poison is not very good? Simple: I didnt say that. Poison needs to be seen as more than solely a method of dealing additional tiny amounts of damage.
Let me present to you the most obvious Pokemon to pair up with Ariados: Sceptile EX
Its attack, Unseen Claw, deals massive damage to opponents that are either asleep, confused, paralyzed, burnt or, you guessed it, poisoned. It also has Grass type, so Ariados´ ability does not poison it, making it a safe choice for fast heavy damage. And don´t forget the additional 10 damage between turns from the poison itself. The biggest, glaring weakness of this combination? Grass decks and ability denial. Face a mirror match, Garbodor, Serperior, Yanmega BREAK or M Beedrill EX and you are severely limited in your options.
Speaking of M Beedrill EX, that little fellow will be mentioned later again.
Same weakness, but different tactic: Raticate BREAK and the Antibodies Raticate
The basics are the same. Get Ariados out and poison whatever is active, which in this case should be Raticate BREAK and some hopefully not Grass type Pokemon on the opponent´s side. However, since Raticate has the ability Antibodies, it can not be poisoned and thus, only the opponent is affected. That´s where Raticate BREAK and its Superfang come into play. Superfang reduces the opponent´s Pokemon´s HP to 10, which means the poison damage will finish it off, no matter how much HP it had before. So mischievous (fang, hint hint).
Next on my list is another critter noone in the real world would ever wanna touch: Toxicroak
While the opponent´s active Pokemon is poisoned, it can not damage Toxicroak. Poison the opponent with Ariados and, in theory, Toxicroak should be immune. However, the effects of the attacks still go through as only damage is prevented and grass types get a free pass once again. Also, switching cures poison, so Zoroark, Manaphy and some other cards can easily bypass the immunity entirely. To prevent Toxicroak to get poisoned itself by Ariados, you need Chaos Tower, which can easily be discarded by the opponent playing a stadium by him/herself. A very shaky, but still fun combination to use.
But what if you really like the idea of poisoning your own Pokemon with Ariados? Well first of all, you are an evil sadist! Second, there is an option for you too: Machamp EX.
Machamp is the masochist you need in your life. So why would you want to poison your own Pokemon? Well, Machamp likes being poisoned, even damaged. Crazy Hammer is pretty weak at 80 damage for 3 energy cost, however in combination with Ariados, he simply adds 80 damage to that and now is scarily strong. Put a Strong Energy on him and all of a sudden he can oneshot most EXes, add another Strong energy + the poison damage and M Mewtwo Y EX gets dropped in one attack. So, even poisoning your own Pokemon can be useful sometimes.
So there are multiple cases where poison can be advantageous beyond the initial damage, but how about the damage itself now? As previously mentioned, a single damage counter a turn isnt anything special. However what if poison was 4 damage counters a turn instead?
M Beedrill EX thinks that sounds great!
For 2 energy (and discarding them), M Beedrill EX deals a measly 40 damage, however it does apply guaranteed paralysis, which is simply amazing, and also has a guaranteed poison effect. Not only regular poison though, oh no. M Beedrill EX spices it up a notch dealing 40 damage with its poison effect. This can end up causing massive damage while opponents need cards like Pokemon Center Lady, Switch or Escape Rope to prevent more poison damage. While I would love to write a lengthy text and elaborate on this card, I will probably end up writing an entire seperate article about this spiky fella real soon, so stay tuned!
A rather obscure but fun alternative could be Dragalge.
For a single psychic energy (or a Double Dragon Energy) you can poison opponents just like Beedrill does, just without the initial damage nor the paralysis. However this can, just like any poison, be removed by simply switching out or playing a Pokemon Center Lady.
There are several more Pokemon in the current standard format, that can poison opponents. However none of those have anything special beyond it being a slight damage increase over the regular damage. Some cards, like the new Nidoking BREAK deal 2 damage counters with their poison effect, but that still is only a slight damage increase. Noteworthy for an effect that nobody else in the current standard format has, is Croagunk. While just as easily worked around as his evolved form (which I talked about earlier), it can increase the damage of any poison effect on the opponent by 3 damage counters, effectively making a regular poison as strong as M Beedrill´s or Dragalge´s poison. Quite a unique effect.
Poison is more than simply 10 damage a turn. It can be used as a fun gimmick to build a few great decks around. While not meta-defining as of now, status effects could play a big role in the TCG in the near future. The upcoming Sun and Moon base set supposedly will change how burn works, so maybe we will see some new gimmicks for and/or changes to poison too.