When Rising Rivals came out back in May 2009, most of us just flocked to the cards like Nidoqueen, and Luxray GL LV.X, that were obviously viable and changed the way several decks were run (Gengar and Beedrill, to name a couple), and Flygon was established as the only non-SP deck to have been formed on a card out of Rising Rivals. But I seem to remember that there was another card that received almost as much hype as Flygon, in its own right.
Hippowdon LV.X is one of those cards that, like Raichu LV.X, gain massive popularity before the set is released, and then loses it rapidly as the next tournament cycle comes to pass. Whether it’s bad timing, or just a bad card, hasn’t ever really been explored. If the timing were just off by a set or two, then maybe the card can be salvaged in time for City’s.
Let’s begin by looking at the LV.X itself. 130 HP on a Stage 1 LV.X is good by any means, so it is a great start. We’ve got a Fighting type, so without an attack that bypasses Resistance, expect to do lower damage fairly often. On the good side, you do hit Luxray GL techs for double damage. An attack, Double Shoot, that hits the bench is welcome, especially since most Stage 2 line Basics have low HP. It also makes it harder for a Pokémon to flee to the bench to heal, since you can hit 2 at the same time.
The weakness is probably a major factor in why Hippowdon didn’t take off as planned. Palkia G, coming off of it’s many State and Regional Championship top cuts, was on the loose, and we’ll find out more of why that was such a bad thing for Hippowdon later. Right now, we’ll just note that it hits for Hippowdon’s weakness. Resistance to Lightning isn’t very awesome, since Luxray GL will normally hit around you, anyway, and most other Lightning based rogues can run Sunnyshore Gym fairly easily, which lets them get around Resistance (and Weakness to boot). Hippowdon weighs 661.4 pounds (over a quarter of a ton), so I wouldn’t expect it to be a light retreater, and it isn’t. 4 is the highest I’ve ever seen on a card, which is shared with other behemoths like Snorlax and Steelix.
But here we have the main draw that moved people to look at Hippowdon LV.X originally. Sand Reset, in case you couldn’t read the scan, says “Once during a game on your turn (before your attack), each player shuffles all cards in play (excluding Pokémon and Supporter cards) into his or her deck. You can’t use more than one Sand Reset Poké-Power per game.”
Key things to note are that, first of all, it is ONCE PER GAME. I can’t stress enough how important it is to save it for the right time, but saving it for too long can easily cost you the game. Second, is the fact that to use this card correctly, you have to know what you’re getting rid of. Technically, the hand is not considered in play, so it’s off limits. Your Supporter also stays next to your Active, so you still only get one per turn. but aside from that and Pokémon, everything else gets sent back. All Energy, Pokémon Tools, Stadiums, PlusPowers, etc. are shuffled back into the deck. This is as close to restarting the game as one can get without downright cheating. Third, this is the one Power that above all others screams “Power Spray Me”, so Palkia Lock and other SP decks that make liberal use of Power Spray get a nice bonus. Being in a straight Power Lock (GG or anything running a couple Mesprits) can be a major pain, too.
I feel that there are a variety of ways that this Power can be used to completely alter the course of the game, not all of which are obvious. Obvious would be using the power, then using the attacks of the base Hippowdon (Details below) until you have recovered enough Energy to attack, which is normally faster than your opponent. A bit more subtle would be to use Mesprit LA’s Psychic Bind Poké-Power to prevent your opponent from using Powers to catch up. Then you throw in something akin to Team Galactic’s Wager, and you’ve basically stopped your opponent in their tracks. Obvious would be to use it to get rid of Expert Belts and other tools that may be causing you problems. Again, a touch of subtlety reveals that Sand Reset is the only force in the current format powerful enough to remove Unown G from its current wielder. This lets a teched Gengar SF nab a KO on a Claydol or other Guarded Pokémon if your opponent thought it was safe to fill their bench. Here’s the problem, though. While all of these are good at first glance, you can only use Sand Reset once per game. So unless that KO will win you the game, or get you close enough to winning that you can assure yourself the game with that move, your opponent no longer has to worry about it.
The main thing about Hippowdon LV.X’s power is that most decks in the current (DP-AR) metagame are built toward speed, or you have Salamence (Which Resists you) and Flygon (Which oneshots you). So, to summarize the power in a way that my local PTO once said “If it said THAT Hippowdon could only use it once per game, then it would be great”.
A LV.X card is only as good as the base you put it on, right? So it only makes sense to take a glance at the base Hippowdons that have come out. All of them have only minor differences in stats. Hippowdon RR and DP have 110 HP, while MD has 100. Hippowdon MD and DP have 3 Retreat, while Hippwdon RR has 4.
Hippowdon RR is generally chosen to be the best. It alone of the Hippowdon cards to be in the modified format has an ability, one that puts a damage counter on all your opponent’s LV.X’s in play in between turns. Not especially good, but it could be worse. I guess it helps when you’re playing against a deck heavy with the LV.X’s, like AMU or Flygon. Save Sand is an attack that reminds me personally of Blissey MT, in that you can search your discard pile for an Energy before hand to attach. You don’t get to get any kind, though, only Fighting types. Still, it’s a decent form of Energy acceleration in itself, since you do damage for each of them that is attached to Hippowdon. It also sets up Hippowdon’s other attack, Groundquake, very nicely. Groundquake does a set 80 damage for 4 Energy, which is low by today’s standards, but it also does 10 to all unevolved Pokémon in play. This means all basic LV.X’s are taking 30 in between turns, and all basics in general take an extra damage counter. It combos fairly well with Hippowdon LV.X’s Double Shoot, since you can normally follow it up with a KO to weaker basics on the bench fairly easily.
Hippowdon MD is a card that is just foreshadowed by the RR version. It’s first attack works like Save Sand, only for free, but you don’t get to do extra damage for each Energy attached. It’s other attack does 50 damage straight, and then you can flip a coin for every F Energy attached to Hippowdon and do 20 more for every heads. Technically, I guess this makes this Hippowdon the one with the highest average damage output, since the second attack only costs 3 Energy, but flips have never been popular in my book. Note, this Hippowdon doesn’t have a resistance like the others.
Hippowdon DP is a mockery, and probably shouldn’t even see the inside of a sleeve. You can look at the scan to see it is grossly underpowered in comparison to the others. I won’t go into detail over it here, for that reason.
I guess that pretty much wraps up this small analysis on Hippowdon. I’m not denouncing the card by any means, but I think that more often than not, Hippowdon just simply doesn’t have the high damage output that other decks do, so it would probably be relegated to a lower table at a Premier event. But who knows? I also said that about Gyarados, then Fabien has to go and make me look stupid, so I could be wrong here, too.