Just My Type – Flirting With Fighting

Raise your hand if you were expecting a certain other title.

Fighting is one of these elements where my article should really be named “Just My Types” because it actually covers more than just one type from the video game: Fighting, Ground, and Rock. The TCG has always kept these packed together, and it sums up the stereotype pretty well. Rarely is there any kind of complicated mechanic going on with Fighting cards: they’re meant to hit fairly hard with vanilla damage, usually for a fairly cheap cost.

It’s been like that ever since the Base Set days, where Machop and Hitmonchan hit for 20 damage for a single F Energy, and from what I’m seeing, it hasn’t changed.

Main Attackers

pokebeach.comAs you might have guessed, Fighting Pokémon don’t believe in setting up. Just keep attacking until you have 6 Prizes and won the game, no complex strategies necessary. What better way to start a game than to open with Hitmonlee?

It is like a combination of Base Set Hitmonchan and Fossil Hitmonlee: it has that F for 20 “Kick” attack to open games with (which is perfect for KOing Magnemites and Babies with a PlusPower), and since it has a nice 80 HP it will have plenty of time to charge up a devastating “Hi Jump Kick” (FFC for 60).

Lucario from Unleashed has a similar game plan, but is even more powerful. For just C, “Bulk Up” does 30 damage and increases its damage output for the next turn by 30, which makes “Magnum Punch” all the more powerful: 80 damage for FF for turn 3, even leaving you with room to attach an Energy elsewhere on the field!

The only thing you have to worry about here is that your opponent can retreat their Active the turn after you used Bulk Up, since it places an effect on both Lucario and the current Defending Pokémon.

Thankfully, there’s several outs for this: you can either hope your opponent’s Active is stunned in fear of what is about to come, bribe them not to retreat, or simply Bulk Up again to force them to keep wasting Energy attachments to retreat while you keep doing 60 for a single Energy.

Lucario’s 90 HP allows it to survive a Magnezone’s Lost Burn (2 Energy Lost Zoned) with a Defender, as well as Yanmega’s Sonicboom and various other popular attacks, and thanks to its low Energy requirements it should be easy enough to keep them coming even if they somehow manage to Knock it Out.

pokebeach.comBut if you are into staying alive, you should take a look at the “Energy Healer” Onix. Its Poké-Body allows you to remove a damage counter from Onix every time you attach an Energy card to it. Now take a look at its weakness to Grass, which is so much more convenient than the Fire Pokémon his evolved form has to deal with.

True, Yanmega Prime is everywhere, but “Sonicboom” ignores Weakness and Resistance while a double damage “Linear Attack” does not 1HKO Onix. So what are you waiting for? Open your testing program of choice and create “4 Retreat.dec” with a 2-1-2 line of Emboar, allowing Onix to perpetually tank and power up its “Boundless Power” attack which does 80 damage for FCCC.

The name alone should be enough to take 6 Prizes, and I think that’s the reason they decided to nerf it so that you can’t attack the turn after you use it. Don’t let it get to you though, just keep healing off your opponent’s pathetic attempts at denting its 90 HP and wait for the effect to wear off so you can get another prize.

Okay, so seriously? Fighting doesn’t have a whole lot of viable options to discuss, and that is mostly the fault of the whole “deal damage and do nothing else” stereotype. When your attacks lack additional effects, the only viable Pokémon will be those with the best Energy:damage ratio (also taking their amount of required evolution stages into account). The same way Reshiram outshines the Fire cast, Donphan Prime is going to obsolete an enormous amount of Fighting Pokémon for ages to come.

“Earthquake” is no questions asked up there as one of the most efficient attacks ever printed (but probably not as amazing as Yanmega Prime’s “Sonicboom” or the now rotated Gyarados “Tail Revenge”). 60 for F on a Stage 1 is ridiculous, and by itself is enough to turn any deck based around a Pokémon weak to Fighting into “tier 2-3 or lower” unless they have something amazing to compensate for it.

pokebeach.comDonphan is not only problematic because of its speed, but also its durability. 120 HP for a Stage 1 is amazing, and it’s being backed up by its “Exoskeleton” Poké-Body which reduces direct damage taken by Donphan by 20.
As amazing as Earthquake is, it has to have a drawback: it deals 10 damage to each of your own Benched Pokémon.

This doesn’t directly affect your Active Donphan or any on your Bench, but it does hurt any other Basics you plant there, such as the 30 HP Babies, your Phanpies, or other lines you’ve put in. These damage counters do add up, and are especially dangerous when you’re going up against Yanmega, who can pick off your Benched Pokémon once they drop below 50 HP.

As I said in one of my previous articles, when we were still in the speculation stages for an HGSS-on format, I assumed it would be a Donphan format. I wasn’t completely right, but he is definitely a front runner. And because of that, it is only right to not only look at his strong points but also his weaknesses.

There have already been several articles on Donphan (and for good reasons) analyzing both his strengths and weaknesses, so I’ll try not to repeat too much. But I believe Donphan’s flaws can be summed up the following way: he’s one-dimensional.

60 damage on turn 2 coming from essentially a 140 HP Pokémon is amazing, but if your opponent can deal with that, there’s not a whole lot else Donphan has to offer. He is inflexible: his Retreat Cost is a whopping four, so you have to run Switch if you ever want to get him out.

Keeping him in the Active Spot when he’s not 1HKOing things is inefficient: either he’s going to ruin your Bench with Earthquake damage, or you have to attach more Energy for “Giga Impact”, which is 90 for FFF (which is okay, but we can definitely do better nowadays).

Mukpokebeach.comOnce you sent up Donphan, he gets stuck there for a while, and he’s very suspectible to the more unorthodox methods of damage dealing. Being Poisoned and/or Confused by Muk, Roserade, or Crobat Prime, for instance, provide an enormous amount of issues for a Pokémon like Donphan, especially if Vileplume is involved to turn off Switch.

He also suffers from a low damage cap: 90 is all he can do without the aid of PlusPower, and that’s after a lot of Energy attachments. He does well against your opponent’s freshly laid down Basics, but once they start evolving Donphan can get into trouble.

Don’t get me wrong, Donphan is an amazing Pokémon. But I see him kind of like I see Abomasnow Stormfront from last format: he’s part of a balanced breakfast, but he shouldn’t be all you’re eating. He makes for a great and fairly splashable tech (he’s fine with Rainbow Energy), but he can’t hold up an entire deck on his own.

For those unfamiliar, Abomasnow’s “Snow Play” was in my opinion hands down the best spread attack in the format, doing 20 damage to everything your opponent has in play (other than Grass and Water Pokémon, which were and still are relatively rare) for a Double Colorless Energy.

Its lack of great direct damage output beyond this (capping at 60 for WCC) made it fairly weak as its own deck, but as a partner for a Pokémon such as Regigigas it was quite fenominal, providing a fair bit of synergy with both of them covering each other’s weak points to a great extent.

So, Donphan needs friends to stay in the game. In early HGSS, if you asked anyone what to pair Donphan with, the answer was a universal and loud “Machamp Prime”, and how could you blame them? Machamp’s “Fighting Tag” takes care of Donphan’s Retreat issues and provides Energy acceleration to boot, and Earthquake’s side effect boosts Machamp’s “Champ Buster” damage toward the 150 mark, which takes better care of Donphan’s lack of enormous damage output than anything else.

pokebeach.comNowadays, people consider this deck a little too slow and clunky to function well against all these decks featuring Magnezone and Ninetales as draw engines. The popularity of the Fighting-resistant Yanmega also makes it hard to justify playing this, although you could try fixing this by playing the Ruins of Alph Stadium (though take note that this also removes Donphan’s Lightning resistance, which makes it a mixed bag versus Yanmega/Magnezone).

My personal problem with this deck is that both the Basics involved (Phanpy and Machop) have a 2 Retreat Cost, making it much harder to bring them back to the Bench in favor of Cleffa or another Baby during the earlygame. On the other hand, Machoke is one of the best Stage 1s we’ve ever had, since “Knuckle Down” is a guaranteed KO on all those meddling Babies in the format.

If you’re going to give this deck a retry, make sure to put in Ruins of Alph, perhaps Twins, and definitely a ton of Supporter draw support. The Pokémon hit surprisingly hard, punish Magnezone in several ways (it has to Lost Zone 3-4 Energy for each KO and gets 1HKO’d back fairly consistently), and Machamp’s “Crushing Punch” 2HKOs Yanmega Prime under Ruins of Alph while also getting rid of their Rescue Energy. It’s a little bit on the theorymon side, but I think it’s worth a quick run if only for a bit of nostalgia.

Other than Machamp, Donphan has recently seen in the company of his enemy Yanmega as well as various other Stage 1s such as Zoroark to create a fast rush deck with an answer to almost anything. My personal favorite Donphan variant is Double Dragon or Armor.dec or whatever you want to call it, which includes Donphan, Samurott, Zekrom, and Reshiram, which has tremendous type coverage.

Donphan and Samurott are both immune to Earthquake damage, extremely durable, and hit almost everything popular for double damage (and for a 1HKO with a PlusPower). The main exception to this is Yanmega, which is what Zekrom is there for, hitting it with Outrage fueled by the Earthquake recoil. Reshiram has a similar function on Fire-weak Pokémon if you encounter them, and it also owns Kingdra. Kind of like this:

pokebeach.comThe last really good Fighting Pokémon is the smallest of the bunch: Tyrogue. A wise man once said the following:
“Can create so many first turn knockouts… for both sides.” – Colin Peterik

It was actually about the old Ditto from Fossil, but it applies to Tyrogue just as much. He donks Babies like no other, and with a bit of PlusPower aid he can even kill 40-50 HP Basics. But his own 30 HP leaves him vulnerable to himself, and his very existence is what makes matches come down to an opening hand and the initial coin flip so often.

Beyond the first few turns, Tyrogue’s role is usually one of intermission between two real attackers. You just need one more turn to power up that Pokémon on your Bench, or your opponent’s current Active has just a little bit too much HP to be 1HKO’d by your main attacker.

Send up Tyrogue, deal 30 damage and hope you flip tails on the sleep flip (and also hope they flip tails on Pokémon Reversal…see the pattern here?). Even if you flip heads, you would probably rather see Tyrogue hit the discard than your real powerhouse.

Don’t count on having Tyrogue around in this role for too long though, because Yanmega is always out there to kill it with Linear Attack.

Aside from Donphan, Machamp and Tyrogue, there aren’t really any good Fighting Pokémon to cover. But there are a few unique snowflakes out there that deserve a mention for one reason or another.


The first one I’m going to mention is Marowak. At first sight, the card is nothing special: 90 HP is bad, and neither attack is particularly reliable. For a DCE, Bonemerang lets you flip two coins and deal 60 damage times the number of heads. For FF, Bone Impact (oh dear this name is so wrong) does 80, but only if there’s a Stadium in play, and you’re forced to discard it.

The only reason I’m giving this card attention is because it is essentially Donphan Prime for players on a budget. Donphan’s price is rather enormous (it costs $20 on Troll And Toad and somewhere between $7 and $15 on eBay), whereas you could get 3 Marowak for a buck if you wanted to.

No, Marowak is nowhere near as good due to having essentially 50 less HP, requiring a DCE to try and do 60, being flippy, and all that other jazz, but if you don’t feel comfortable investing this much money into your Fighting tech, he is a semi-viable option.

Another poor man’s Donphan could be Lucario from Call of Legends. His “Dimension Sphere” attack has the potential to hit for unlimited amounts of damage for a mere DCE, although the way you’re supposed to boost it limits Lucario to decks that make use of the Lost Zone. If you do happen to run Mew and/or Relicanth in your deck, then Lucario makes for an acceptable tech.

With just two Pokémon sent to the Lost Zone, he’s hitting for 70, which is enough to KO Zekrom and Magnezone, both of which can be very problematic if left unchecked. I actually did some testing with Lucario as a main attacker a long time ago, but his 90 HP makes him just too weak to be a deck focus of any kind.

It also takes too long to start hitting for acceptable long term numbers (100+ damage). Maybe if there was a way to send multiple of your own Pokémon to the Lost Zone, things would be different, but for now you should stick to Cincinno if fragile DCE Stage 1 attackers are your thing.

pokebeach.comWhile we’re on the topic of using a DCE, let’s take a look at Krookodile. It’s a big bad Stage 2 with 140 HP, a Water weakness, a Lightning resistance, an annoying 3 Retreat Cost and two interesting attacks. “Torment” is the one I like the most: for that DCE I used to bridge this paragraph with the previous one, you deal 30 damage and put an “amnesia” effect on your opponent’s Active, blocking them from executing an attack of your choice.

The other attack, “Krookoroll”, is one of those Rend-like attacks: 60 damage if they have no damage counters on them, 100 if they do, for the cost of FFCC.

The way the card is intended to be played is obvious: weaken the opponent with Torment, stopping them from going all-out versus Krookodile, and then finish them off with a devastating Krookoroll. Even one Torment is enough to put pretty much everything in KO range of Krookoroll, since it hits the magic number of 130.

But both attacks allow us to be a little more creative than that, since 130 over the course of a couple of turns isn’t exactly impressive for a Stage 2 that needs at least 3 Energy attachments.

Torment can theoretically be used as a locking device in conjunction with Vileplume, becoming a major pain in the butt for Pokémon that only have a single attack, or might as well only have one. It would work pretty well versus Magnezone, but that isn’t exactly a Pokémon Krookoroll would have trouble wrapping up. Some other Pokémon with only a single attack are RDL, Samurott (Shell Armor), Kingdra Prime, Typhlosion Prime, Feraligatr Prime, and Emboar (Inferno Fandango).

Can't touch this.

This may look like an impressive list, but sadly the list of Pokémon that neutralize this strategy by having two attacks worth using is too long to make this a viable strategy. Yanmega, Donphan, Tyranitar, Machamp, Reshiram, and many more: all of them can evade the Torment strategy.

In addition, the effect is not one on the player or the field: it’s on the Pokémon. If you finish something off with Torment or God forbid they manage to retreat (easy enough with Yanmega), they will be free to use whatever attack they please.

Krookoroll can in theory be triggered instantly by Kingdra Prime’s “Spray Splash”, or some other kind of spread attack such as Tyranitar Prime’s “Darkness Howl” or Elekid’s “Sparking Ball”, but the fact remains that 100 damage for FFCC is not good enough, especially not since it’s only 60 without that prepared spread damage.

If FFCC for 100 is not good enough for me, why am I mentioning Nidoking at all? His attack is just as expensive, but does strictly less damage than Krookoroll? If it were for “Venomous Horn” alone, we probably wouldn’t be looking at Nidoking: 80 and Poison is nice, but we don’t attach this much Energy just for “nice”.

The reason Nidoking piques my interest is because of his enormous 140 HP and “Pheremone Stamina” Body, which buffs that HP by 20 for each Nidoqueen in play.

Time for a little bit of historic background, here. Nidoking/Nidoqueen have had interactions with each other in the TCG ever since the early sets, where Jungle Nidoqueen had a “Boyfriends” attack that cost GC and did 20 damage plus 20 for every Nidoking in play. Back then, that was the most unrealistic expectation an attack could ever give off, given how hard it was to get even a single Stage 2 out.

pokebeach.comLast format, they almost managed to make the Nido couple playable. With Spiritomb (Arceus), Broken Time-Space and a stronger Rare Candy available to get your royal family out as soon as possible, as well as the Rising Rivals Nidoqueen to heal all your Pokémon including your tanking Active Nidoking for 20 every turn, it was actually quite a force to be reckoned with (for a rogue deck, anyhow).

It did still have severe speed issues, as well as a horrid matchup against Gyarados, but compared to other formats including this one, it’s their golden era.

Now, all these nice things are gone and we’re left with a fairly mediocre Nidoqueen that’s an awkward hand refresher and back-up attacker at best. This makes it a very forced and clunky marriage, considering the two don’t even use the same Energy type!

It’s still fairly interesting to try out, though. 140 HP is nothing to mess with: combined with the Lightning resistance, that’s 4 Energy to the Lost Zone for Magnezone to 2HKO before any Nidoqueens. Yanmega resisting you doesn’t make much of a difference, though if it didn’t you it might be possible to put it in PlusPower range.

Serperior might be a better partner for Nidoking than Nidoqueen, sad as it is, since healing 20 HP every turn will beat out having 20 more maximum HP.

Still, it will be a very very slow deck, as even the best opening hands you can muster cannot accelerate your F Energy attachments, and the pre-evolutions of Nidoking are Pokémon Reversal bait.

Gliscor from Undaunted is getting close to the bottom. “Ninja Fang” is really really interesting, pretty much the only guaranteed paralysis attack we have left in the format. For a single F Energy, you do 30 damage and paralyze their Active, assuming they were completely clean before you announced Ninja Fang, obviously because otherwise it would be too easy to lock them perpetually.

It would be a lot easier to find a use for this card if they’d given it the 0 retreat a Gliscor is supposed to have, but once again, it doesn’t seem like they were going for a braindead card. Maybe in tandem with Dodrio (Retreat Aid) this could be a nice way of softening things up for a kill, but personally I’m just not seeing it.

Solrock is really the last serious Pokémon I can find. His attack is stupid, but Solrock usually has a nice Power or Body that only activates when paired with Lunatone, and this one is no exception. “Heal Block” stops any healing (by both you and your opponent), which includes Serperior’s “Royal Heal”, Potion, Moomoo Milk, Victreebel’s Acidic Drain…see the pattern?

These cards are all extremely rare in high level competitive play, partially because this is a format full of 1HKOs, and partially because they simply aren’t very good. There might be a place for Solrock sometime soon, when we are introduced to a few new options for both spreading and healing (such as Kyurem and Pokémon Center), but for now it’s easy to forget about this couple. Especially because Lunatone doesn’t really have anything to offer either, other than some Electrode-level suicide bombing.

That’s it, folks. I could pull some more “look how interesting/unique!” cards such as Cubone and Groudon, but at that point I should really be questioning my own sanity.

Fighting versus other types

pokebeach.comFighting hits for double damage on quite a few types and individual strong cards, but also gets shafted with a -20 damage reduction on just about anything with wings, making it a risky choice to base a deck around, especially in these Yanmega times.

Don’t knock it though, because this opens them (read: Donphan) up as very useful techs that can make otherwise really strong cards such as Zekrom, Magnezone, Zoroark, Cincinno, etc. hold back from overpowering you.

The resistance issue is also one of the more easily solvable problems in this format through the use of Ruins of Alph, which practically nobody is going to remove from the game other than the odd Lost World or Burned Tower.

What really makes Fighting as a type suffer (other than being out of a job as long as the elephant is legal) is the lack of draw engines and Energy acceleration. Which is funny when you think about it, considering it used to have two of the best Pokémon for both of these (Claydol and Regirock, respectively).

Final Verdict

Donphan/Machamp, the penultimate Fighting deck, has been pronounced all but dead. Yanmega keeps the dominant Magnezone safe until it’s time to shine in the endgame, and most of the action for Fighting is delivered by Tyrogue donks and Donphan rushes in Stage 1 decks. However, as I said, that is all it takes to make certain powerful cards tread with care. Especially Zekrom.

Other Notes

Speaking of Zekrom, as you may have noticed this article did not have any decklists, rants or fancy goldfishing runs. I figured that was the way people liked them the best (considering the reactions to my previous article, as well as the ratings), and while I mostly write for my own satisfaction, I thought it was best to stick to my roots.

Oh, and for clarification, that pretty Sawk you are seeing is the Sawk I solo’d Pokémon Black (the video game) with as an experiment a while ago. He sure does enjoy playing dress-up in the musical building.

Hope you had fun reading this, and I’ll see you next time.

Reader Interactions

10 replies

  1. Lee

    Great article! Your first part about Hitmonlee completely threw me off as I was initially oblivious to the sarcasm. I just sort of choked out loud and wondered what six prizes had come to.

  2. Anonymous

    Nice work

    You did forget to mention one of the most fun league decks we have in the format right now: Cubone Rush. Ditch the 4 Marowak and you have a 120hp beast with 20 resistance to lightning. Add defender and now your ridiculous Cubone cannot be touched by anything that hits for less than 100 damage. It is actually a very fun counter to Yanmega/Magnezone (Lost Burn 4 energy anyone?) but fails against everything else.

    • Mekkah  → Anonymous

      Cubone did make a cameo in the last sentence of my main analysis. That said, I thought it was too much of a joke to include, as even with a Defender (which you can’t attach every turn) it is still as difficult to OHKO as a Donphan. Even Magnezone can do it considering how much time it has to attach Energy while hiding behind Yanmega.

      It was going to be in my “joke reviews”, but I had already written up Onix (who also acts as a tank, in fantasy world anyway) and thought it was getting too long already, so I ended up scrapping it.

  3. jordan baker

    I appreciate what you’re trying to do here, but do we really need over 1,000 words for you to say “Donphan and Machamp are the only fighting pokemon worth looking at right now, everything else is terrible”?

    • Mekkah  → jordan

      Nah, you did a fine job of explaining that in one comment. Of course, my article has a lot more than just that, such as a more detailed breakdown on Donphan, the effect of Tyrogue, some Nido couple history, a budget option for Donphan in Marowak, etc. 

  4. Anonymous

    Solrock is better at starting then Hitmonlee is. It does 20 damage, has 10 less health (Only flaw), can partner with Lunatone, and has a 50% chance of invincibility, like a baby Pokemon.

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