Charizard has never been hotter.
Charizard is one of the most popular Pokemon, so it won’t surprise you to hear that cards featuring the fiery lizard are highly sought-after by collectors. However, while Charizard cards might fetch a high price on the secondary market, they have a notoriously low performance record when it comes to the actual game. Sure, you could always build a Charizard deck for fun to play against your friends, but it’d never come close to winning a competitive Pokemon TCG tournament.
That is, until now. With the release of the new expansion set Sun and Moon: Team-Up, fans of the Kanto fire starter finally have a competitively viable Charizard that is, hands down, the best ever printed.
Why This Charizard Burns So Bright
The key factor that makes this Charizard so good is its Roaring Resolve ability, which allows you to search out two Fire Energy from your deck and attach them to it. The cost is inflicting a mere 30 damage to itself, which is negligible considering the amount of damage you’ll be dealing. Charizard cards historically have energy costs that are either too high to reach or too difficult to maintain due to the fire-type discarding mechanic, but this amazing ability circumvents those long-standing problems by providing a quick and easy way to power up.
Charizard’s Continuous Blaze Ball attack does 30 damage plus 50 extra for each Fire Energy discarded from it when you attack. That means at minimum you’ll be dealing 130 damage, which is a key number to reach because it takes out commonly used 130 HP Basic Pokemon like Buzzwole, Naganadel, and Granbull in one hit.
But more importantly, by attaching an additional Fire Energy from hand, the attack will reach 180 damage and allow Charizard to knock out juicy two-Prize Pokemon GX like Blacephalon-GX, Tapu Lele-GX, and Rayquaza-GX. Add on a +30 damage Choice Band to reach 210 and now Charizard is dealing a OHKO to Buzzwole-GX, Alolan Ninetales-GX, and Zoroark-GX.
As if that wasn’t powerful enough, if you charge up a Charizard over multiple turns without attacking, then you’ll be able to attain an even bigger damage output. Two uses of Roaring Resolve will let Charizard attack for a truly insane 230 damage, or 260 with a Choice Band, which lets it take down Stage 2 powerhouses like the 230 HP Gardevoir-GX and 250 HP Solgaleo-GX, and even some of the new titanic three-Prize Tag Team GX Pokemon like the 240 HP Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, Gengar & Mimikyu-GX, and Latios & Latias-GX.
Once you get a few Charizards up and running, it’ll be easy to win the race to take six Prizes, especially if your opponent is running a deck featuring Pokemon GX because you’ll be taking multiple Prizes per turn while Charizard only gives up one when it goes down.
Charizard might seem super powerful, and it is, but it doesn’t come without some weaknesses, and we’re not just talking about water-type Pokemon.
Being a Stage 2 Pokemon, the deck will struggle with consistency, so there will be games where you just can’t manage to build multiple Charizards. There are cards like Alolan Vulpix and Alolan Ninetales-GX that can help search out the necessary Pokemon and Rare Candy from your deck, but playing a Pokemon GX of your own means giving your opponent the opportunity to catch up on the Prize race.
Being a Stage 2 deck also means it’ll be slow to start, so the fact that Charizard can incinerate big Pokemon GX won’t mean much if the opponent has already taken a big lead by the time you start to attack.
The deck will burn through energy very quickly (pun intended), so you’ll need to rely on cards like Energy Recycler or Victini Prism Star to replenish your supply.
So while this Charizard card is leagues better than any previous version, it still might not have what it takes to dominate the competitive scene, but at least now it’ll stand a fighting chance.
How to Play With the New Charizard
If you want to build a Charizard deck of your own, then we have a couple options for you.
First up, you can take a look at the Charizard/Flareon-GX deck list used by 2016 Pokemon TCG World Champion Shintaro Ito that he piloted to a third place finish in a recent tournament in Japan. He’s a genius when it comes to deck building, so even though he didn’t win, this is a great starting point for anyone who wants to take a crack at it.
3 Alolan Vulpix
1 Alolan Ninetales-GX
2 Tapu Lele-GX
4 Rare Candy
4 Ultra Ball
2 Pokemon Communication
2 Rescue Stretcher
2 Choice Band
1 Energy Recycler
2 Erika’s Hospitality
2 Professor Elm’s Lecture
1 Bill’s Analysis
1 Heat Factory Prism Star
15 Fire Energy
Your other option, if you want to try out the new Charizard just for fun, is to buy the newly released Relentless Flame theme deck that comes with a ready-to-play, 60-card starter deck and includes two copies of Charizard (one a shatter-foil holo). A friend can also purchase a Sun and Moon era theme deck for you to play against in a casual setting, or you can use the included code card to try out the deck online.
Joshua is Senior Editor of IGN Comics. If Pokemon, Green Lantern, or Game of Thrones are frequently used words in your vocabulary, you’ll want to follow him on Twitter @JoshuaYehl and IGN.