I think we can all come together, as a collective community, and acknowledge that in a format that just lost water acceleration (All hail King Koopa, long may he Reign… Dance) Primal Trait Gyarados goes from being pretty bad to just god awful.
But this is obvious, as we all know Gyarados is not a good card, its not even playable all things considered, being a stage 1 with lacklustre damage off of its second attack and just awful requirements for the first one, even with the ability to have 2 Pokemon Tools attached to it at a time, any competitive player worth their salt can see its just not a good card.
But then, I got to thinking. Gyarados still does a flat 100 damage off of its second attack, with a potential extra 30. M.Sceptile-EX is getting away with doing around about the same amount of damage and slowly becoming one of the most dominant Ex’s out of Ancient Origins. Of course that only takes 2 energy to dish out, and Sceptile has a lot more HP, so really, we circle back around to “Gyarados is bad and should feel bad” and are content in known knowledge reaffirming itself as truth, once more.
But I just, I can’t let go of it. I can’t just leave Gyarados on the side of the road, call it bad and be done for the day, for one small, nagging reason.
It is a really, really, pretty card you guys.
So, with that in mind let us dive deep into Gyarados, and see what possible madness we can mix into it.
Tiny, Furry Doom
Oh boy, the Eeveelutions this set. Just when you thought Flareon was about to become obsolete due to the format change, a brand new one comes along and drags both Vaporeon and Jolteon into the surprisingly playable category. TLDR of the Eevee’s is that they turn all of your Stage 1 Pokemon into that specific type, in addition to their original type. So while this eliminates Vaporeon as a buddy to the Gen.1 terror of the Seas, with both a Flareon and a Jolteon on the bench, Gyarados is now hitting for a guaranteed 200 damage on 3 different weaknesses, 1 hit KOing anything with weakness on a successful coin flip.
Notably, its taking down Origin’s sweetheart Sceptile as well as one shot-ing the Colorless Rayquazza EX from Roaring Skies.
Of course there’s still the issue of charging it up with 4 different energy as well as getting the Eevee’s out in addition to the rather frail Magikarp. (30hp is 30hp)
So then, we get two different questions into solving the issue of using Gar-Dos.
First option, what, if any, energy acceleration can Gyarados make use of?
Second option, how could you potentially wall long enough to manually make things happen?
Lets focus on that first question to start with.
Wait Lapras is in Format?
Straight up, completely forgot that Lapras even existed. Both as a card in the format and a card with Energy acceleration. Although, even calling it acceleration leaves a slightly salty taste in my mouth, being that you need to first drop the Water Energy and then take a chance on the coin flips off an attack, meaning even if you do get the dream flips, you still won’t be able to do anything about until your next turn. So, anything that can do this better?
Hey there good looking, what’s your name?
Right off the bat, Milotic already looks better than Lapras. It does the same thing without the coin flips, guaranteeing the 3 Energy Attachment and its not off of an attack so you can do it the same turn you start attacking with Gyarados.
Of course, the drawbacks are harsh. Milotic is a Stage 1, so there’s all the posibility in the world that, while Gyarados may be ready to get out and thrash the world, you have to wait another turn before you can drop and sacrifice the Milotic.
Secondly, the sacrifice. Milotic’s ability is reliant on you being comfortable enough in your deck to give your opponent a free prize card, and lets face it. This is Ancient Trait Gyarados, you would have to have one hell of a deck to be comfortable enough to give up a free prize card.
To be honest, there aren’t really all that many cards that function well with getting out energy for Gyarados. Things like M.Sceptile EX can drop bonus energy onto it, but that requires you to start mixing in Grass Energy and defeats the purpose of Gwar-Dos in the first place. Why attack with the G-Man if you’re already attacking with Sceptile?
You could always go for Serene Grace Togekiss, but that is a lot of moving parts in a deck that already has a lot to do in a short amount of time.
If you want to go with an acceleration deck, Milotic is your best choice as far as I’m concerned. Easy to search out with dive ball, and if you wanna go for a T1 drop or a second Energy Grace, Archie’s Ace in the Hole offers a free drop from the discard onto the bench as well as a refreshed hand.
Of coure you trust your Random Number God Luck on the Coin Flips or there being enough energy in your top 8 cards, then by all means, run Lapras or Togekiss, its your deck and ultimately your decision.
But acceleration isn’t where I place my money for this deck. No, I feel if you’re going to run Gyarados with any kind of success rate (no matter how minor) you need early game stall and late game tankiness.
My friends, the deck I would run to try and bring out all of Ancient Trait Gyarados’ potential would be a Gyarados/Seismatoad-EX /Amorus deck.
Gyarados and the Seisma-Scrub Team
Well Now, ain’t This Wacky? Lets talk about the Toad in the room first.
Last rotation, Seismatoad saw heavy play and high success in concert with Garbador, locking out your opponent’s abilities, as well as denying them the chance to play much of anything for set-up, Quaking Bags was one of the most oppressive decks to come into fruition since Vileplume.
However, their terrifying reign has come to a jarring end, as Garbodor has been rotated out of format, leaving Seismatoad-EX a little less impressive. At least until someone pairs it with the new Vileplume, which is essentially Garbodor at a stage higher. (Although that’s a rant for another day)
Having Seismatoad as your leading Pokemon is a beatiful little touch for Gyarados, offering you some breathing room while you search out your Water Dragons and the Eeveelution best suited for your current match up, dropping a Switch when you’re little Red Karp is all grown up. Ideally your Toad Stall will have hamstrung your opponent enough that all it should take to finish off your opponent is 2 or 3 well placed Thrash’s to end the game.
Now here’s where things get fun.
Aurorus offers something to your entire field, that usually only targets a single Pokemon at a time, and that is damage reduction.
While this bad boy is on the field, any of your pokemon with Water Energy attached take 20 less damage from your opponent’s attacks.
Well, you know, it’s not bad, but it’s hardly great either, why are we including it?
Well remember Gyarados being able to equip two pokemon tools?
Well, we make 1 of them a Hard Charm, for further damage reduction, meaning any damage Gyarados takes is reduced by 40, which is pretty neat.
The second Tool is a little more subject to change. You could choose to run Muscle Band, so that you score a little more damage on a bad coin flip, One Hit KOing several EX’s off of a Flareon or Jolteon powered Thrash before the coin flip is even calculated.
If you enjoy the tankiness route, you could throw in Protection Cubes, preventing
the self-inflicted damage from a bad coin flip or alternatively, a Healing Scarf, allowing you to heal what ever damage breaks through your Aurorus/Hard Charm Wall.
Hell, if you want to be really tanky, double down 2 Hard Charms on your first Gyarados and split the difference on the next one. Its a wonderful little trick, that appeals to the Troll in me.
At the end of the day, I do not remotely believe Ancient Trait Gyarados to be a good card, at least not with the cards currently available in the format. Which is a shame, because as I said, it is a very pretty card that deserves to be played and not hidden away in a Binder.
I’ll probably put a list together over the weekend, and get my testing buddy to come and help me gauge its viability. (I am pretty firmly of the opinion that it is not viable)
But maybe future sets will offer ways in which Gyarados can storm the scene, and land itself a place among the most highly regarded decks in the land.
Maybe, just maybe, one day, Ancient Trait Gyarados could be competitive.
But I doubt it.