Full disclosure, I have been messing around with Ho-oh EX for close to 2 months now. Testing it against heavy hitters such as Mega Mewtwo Y, Darkrai, Gardevoir, Flareon and Rayquaza.
I have walked away from the experience, having learned the following; Ho-oh EX is ALMOST playable.
And for me, that conclusion is worse than the idea of Ho-oh EX being just a flat out bad card. Because I really wanted this to work, I love Ho-oh, I love the art design and I really love the IDEA of the card’s mechanics. Especially as unique to Ho-oh, which in the TCG, has regularly required multiple energy types to work at full efficiency.
In the last two months this is the deck I have played, tweaked, tested and slaved over the most.
I’ve put together other decks in that time frame, but besides the World Championship Audino Deck, I have disassembled every single one of them as soon as a reason was found.
Ampharos can not deal with the meta? Idea discarded.
Friend’s Haxorus list proving to clunky? Send it away.
Maybe try building a meta deck? Too boring, so very, very boring.
But Ho-oh fails? We will find a way to fix it. Introduce this tech, attempt running this partner to the deck. Maybe choose an alternate attacker, one that can make use of the esoteric energy spread as well as, or better than the Rainbow Bird! What an idea!
Spoiler warning, it did not work out well. Just in case you were getting your hopes up or something.
Part One: This Bird is on Fire
So, lets talk about the card itself. In a format just recently broken free of the scourge that is Night March (FUCK YOU BUGGO!) slower decks, that require more than a single turn to set up and win have been able to move to the forefront.
Mewtwo and Rayquazza, two of the most powerful decks of the current format, were almost unplayable in the face of Night March, unable to charge up and attack before Pumpkaboo or Joltik dropped down from on high to topple the titans.
So with that… fun deck dead and buried post worlds rotation, this also got people thinking on other attackers, who else could rise up in a post Night March world?
My pick for it, was Ho-oh EX from BREAK-Point, and that was not the best bet in the world. But that being said, it does have some things going for it.
As it’s main attacker doesn’t evolve, Ho-oh can utilise Fighting Fury Belt, bringing it up to a hefty 220HP, with your main damage evening out at 140, which is hardly small.
Ho-oh also snipes a single bench sitter for 30, every single time you swing. Making use of effective Lysandre plays, you can hit 2 different Pokemon for 160 (170 with the Belt) across 2 turns.
The 30 to the bench also means that Ho-oh can make use of Absol from Roaring Skies, potentially being able to cinch a Knockout before you even swing your attack for the turn, although securing that with Ho-oh, is more than a bit iffy.
Purifying Flame is an easy heal. With a basic Fire Energy Attached to you, once per-turn, you can heal an easy 50hp from the bird.
Also, if I am taking anything even remotely positive away from testing Ho-oh as hard as I have, it is that Ho-oh’s Ability, Purifying Flame, is the one true counter to Alakazam-EX.
Consistently healing off the initial minor damage that ‘zam manages to inflict on you, for nothing more than a single Basic Energy attachment.
So rejoice, Card Players of all shapes and sizes, if your local player base run a heavy amount of Alakazam decks, Ho-oh is the one true counter to the Spoons of Doom. The only card, you will ever need.
But if your local Meta is not stupid, and good at card games, then, Ho-oh is still not the card for you, or me.
Part II: Partners in Crime
The very first iteration of the deck centered around utilising Golduck BREAK, constantly moving energy around to pull off Max Potion shenanigans. The deck moved slowly, with the only Energy Acceleration being Max Elixir’s (A 4 count, as staple in Ho-oh), getting Golduck BREAK out wasn’t an issue, but getting out the needed Energy and then the Golduck on top of that and keeping it alive to enable Max Potion shenanigans was… Not easy.
The 2-2-2 line was too inconsistent, not hitting early Psyducks early enough. The 3-2-2 line required dumping too many resources into getting out the Duck while ignoring Big Bird and the 3-3-3 line just took up way to much space, slowing the deck to a crawl.
The next attempt was to pair up my Best Bird with Parasect from BREAK-Through. That,
ah. We don’t talk about that one too fondly.
The biggest issue with Parasect comes down to the way Colorful Spores works. At first glance, it’s fantastic. With a Forest of Giant Plants rush, you can have 3 Ho-oh’s Benched beforehand, and then each one gets an Energy attached to. That is pretty cool.
But then you realise that, even if you manage to God Mode this set-up turn 1, you are still left with the problem that unless you can hit a Max Elixir turn 2, your Ho-oh’s still will not be ready to attack. Then, to keep yourself alive into turn 3, Parasect had to tank into turn 2 while still being alive. Which at 100hp, is not easy.
Pair this with the fact that, in keeping the deck consistent enough to hit Parasect Turn 1, you should be running a minimum line of 3 Paras and 3 Parasect. 6 cards, for something you’re only going to use once, maybe twice, is a lot of space that could be given to thicker Supporter lines or additional energy to increase the odds of you hitting your Max Elixir.
The worst part of it though, is that your opponent is given plenty of chance to dance around you with Lysandre, prize sniping whatever Ho-oh you start manually attaching to, meaning that this way you get no chance to start swinging your feathers around.
There was a list I had that smashed Ducks and Bugs together… But uh, the less said about that train wreck, the better.
The only constant partner that has stayed with the deck since version 1.0 is Smeargle from BREAK-Through, there to clean up awkward Max Elixirs, when all you hit is a basic Grass when you already have a Ho-oh with a basic Grass attached. With cheap discards on Ultra
Ball and Professor Sycamore, you can dump a copy of the energy you need to do things and then just Gift Swap it for the doubled energy.
If you need to stall out for a couple of turns, it can also help with getting a basic Fire onto it, to heal off 50 every turn, dragging potential 2-hit-KO’s into 3, or even 4-hits, if the math is barely there enough.
So then, with that in mind, we come to iteration 4, the version of Ho-oh I am still running and tweaking, which uses neither Golduck BREAK or Parasect.
That said, it is still carrying on a few lessons learned from the first 3 lists, that said though, it was not at all viable until the release of Steam Siege and the announcement of a Grass Type Larvesta.
Part III: Bugaboo
I can not take full credit for this, the idea being seeded in my head by a friend while I was still trying to brute force Parasect. But since then, I have come to the conclusion that Volcarona, from Ancient Origins is a criminally underappreciated card, and with the release of the Grass Type Larvesta, could easily go on to serve as a competitive tech in any grass decks, needing a cheap and easy charge on turns 1 or 2. Sceptile being the current obvious use. (Although there is something to be said for Trevenant-EX as well. Huh, there’s an idea…)
So, we keep the Forest of Giant Plants rush as a holdover from the good ol’ Parasect Build, rushing out Volcarona and using Solar Birth as soon as possible, grabbing only a single Ho-oh this time, as opposed to 3 with Parasect, but loading up that one with 2 energy, which already means the bird is ready to start attacking come your next turn, with nothing more than a manual attach.
Alternatively, you can drop that energy and then Solar Birth a second time, for another Bird, and manually attaching to it come your next turn. At which point you now have two Birds ready to swing, costing you no more than a stadium drop, a single energy of any kind, and 2 attacks.
To date, Volcarona has been my most consistent partner in Ho-oh, and for good reason. If you can Turn 1 out Ho-oh, chances are you are going to be the first person to start swinging, which is where we come across the biggest issue with Ho-oh-EX as a card.
Part IV: The Biggest Downsides
There are two major things bringing Ho-oh down. First off is it’s damage.
130 is not exactly small, and paired together with the 30 damaouge is nice enough to hobble any Stage 2 decks. But that’s the crux of the mater.
It can deal with Stage 2’s, but not any of the more powerful EX decks, and it falls absolutely flat when attempting to tango
with any kind of Mega Deck, but especially M-Mewtwo Y, which can just steam roll over your stacked energy, or use Shrine of Memories to Damage Change your day to ruins.
The second biggest issue is it’s Typing, specifically the awkward weakness to water on a colourless typing, making this an automatic auto-loss to Greninja if you can’t kill the all of the Froakie’s by at least turn 2, then the minute they drop down the Shadow Stitching Greninja (They don’t even need to get the BREAK at this point) you are pretty much done for.
Worse yet, with Ho-oh being Colourless, it hits nothing for weakness to compensate for this, which is just… Not ideal.
Ho-oh’s nearest parallel is M.Audino-EX, who
like the bird does single target spread damage. 110 to the Defending and then, on the condition that you have used a Supporter that turn, deals a futher 50 to a Pokemon on your opponent’s Bench. So all up, in a single turn, Audino and Ho-oh put the same amount of damage out onto the board in a single turn. They even share a typing, so then they should do just as well right?
Except not, mostly because Audino does not share that awkward Water weakness and it’s Fighting Weakness isn’t a thing that exists in much of anything in the meta’s. Sure there is the odd Garchomp deck and the occasional weirdo rocking Zygarde EX, but neither show up anywhere near as much as Greninja does to wreck Ho-oh.
Not only that, but where Ho-oh requires 3 separate energy of different types to start attacking, Audino is entirely colourless, giving you the ability to make use of Double Colourless Energies to start going much quicker. Which also separates it from the reliance of energy accelerators that Ho-oh is so reliable on, clearing up extra room in your deck.
The damage split is also more favourable on Audino’s side. 50 able to snipe Mew’s and Froakies on the bench, also more ideal for splitting damage between EX’s for simultaneous knock-outs.
Part V: Conclusion and Current List (Ignore the weird Formatting of the Table)
|Ho-oh EX x3 BKP 121/122
Larversta x4 SSG 14/114
Volcarona x3 AO 17/99
Shaymin-EX x1 RS 106/108
Smeargle x1 BKT 123/162
Mew x1 FTC 29/124
|Hex Maniac x1
Ninja Boy x1
Pokemon Ranger x1
Professor Sycamore x3
Forest of Giant Plants x3
Fighting Fury Belt x3
Max Elixir x4
|Rainbow Energy x3
Basic Grass Energy x3
Basic Fire Energy x2
Basic Water Energy x3
Basic Lightning Energy x3
Do not play Ho-oh.
It’s sad but, it just cannot keep pace with the meta at the moment, and everything it does, Audino just does so much better. Audino is also proven already, taking out the big prize at Worlds this year.
You know what, that’s the take away here. Don’t play Ho-oh, just play Audino instead.