Behold my stammer.
Behold my stammer.
Fire Types: Damage is the name of the game. Fire-types are very good at dealing massive amounts of damage to their foes, almost certainly oneshotting type-disadvantaged ‘mons at the same levels, and crippling others.
However, all power comes at a price- in this case, Energy. Fire-type attacks generally have a high Energy cost, and many discard their own Energy as part of their effect. This often drains Energy cards when they could be going to a worthier cause.
Fire-types have a weakness to Water, which is not a strong type on its own. They have an advantage over some Grass-types, making it tougher for an opponent to inflict special conditions.
014: Base Set Charmander
Okay, so here we have the first Fire-type of this set, and it’s not terrible. One Colorless deals ten damage, and a combination of one Fire and one Colorless deals thirty. Okay, no issue there, but using the second attack forces you to discard a Fire energy. This is a recurring feature of Fire-types- attacks that deal a decent amount of damage, but force you to discard Energy. It actually decreases some of their usability, but can be a real help in a pinch.
Otherwise, it’s got a low retreat cost and 50 HP. A decent starter overall.
015: Base Set Charmeleon
Yet another example of a not-terrible card. 80 HP is excellent for a Stage 1, and it’s got a three-colorless 30-damage attack. The jump from one to three energy for the lower-energy attack is a small red flag, but it’s nothing compared to Flamethrower, which is an incredible mixed bag. Two Fire and one Colorless deal fifty damage, but require a discard. As before, it’s great in a pinch, but dries up your resources quickly.
016: Base Set Charizard
Well, here it is. The big one. I say Base Set, you say Charizard. This was by far the most desirable card in the entire game for years. I didn’t realize it when the game was new, but…
Huh. I guess it’s anecdote time.
Anyway, for years, I was in love with starter decks. 60 cards, useable out of the pack… They were basically a gold mine. I only opened one Base Set booster in my entire life, and guess which card happened to be my Rare?
Of course, I didn’t realize the treasure I’d chanced upon, and leant it to a friend next door when he asked to borrow it (Hey, I was six. Give me a break.) A month later, I asked for it back, and he claimed that he had in turn leant it to a friend of his. A week after that, he moved out of state. I never saw the card again.
Anyway, Charizard. This card has received a lot of backlash in recent years, mainly because its usefulness is supposed to be far less than its rarity and value would suggest. It seems that a lot of people think it’s like paying a years’ paycheck for a car that’s missing an engine, but that’s not technically correct. Charizard’s a Hummer- a massive cost, but perfectly capable of setting your enemies on fire on your whim.
Come to think of it, that analogy broke down a little in the middle there.
Anyway, 120 HP is huge in this game, so it gets a lot of points there. It’s Pokémon Power, Energy Burn, turns all of your energies into Fire. All of them. Your Water, your Grass, your Double Colorless, all of them. This in turn is useful for the mother of all attacks, Fire Spin. 100 damage is incredible- even if anything resisted Fire in this game, it’d still take 70 damage from this attack. It’s drawback, however, is the reason it’s so maligned- you have to discard two Fire Energy. Now, Energy Burn makes all Energy Fire, but this still means that a minimally-kept Charizard can still only attack once every two turns.
This is why Charizard is a Hummer- you get a lot more out of it if you sink your costly resources into it. Because of Energy Burn and its pre-evolutions’ ability to attack with any Energy, Charizard can essentially work in any deck, but the second it’s on the field, you have to sink every Energy you can onto it.
So, overall, impractical, but awesome enough to earn it the first instance of a Potter’s Seal of Approval.
017: Base Set Vulpix
Now, let’s take a break from GAME WRECKING DRAGONS to discuss alternate options. Vulpix is less than good as a starter- two Fire for a ten-damage attack. It has a chance to inflict Confusion, but Confusion is not broken the way Paralysis and Poison are- the first two can be crippling, but Confusion is merely annoying. The 50 HP is nice, but not enough to save the card.
018: Base Set Ninetales
You know, the funny thing is that I hear that this is supposed to be an acceptable Charizard substitute. Have these people even looked at the card? I mean, yes, it’s less of an Energy black hole because its 80-damage attack requires only a single discard, but the cost is identical, and Ninetales lacks Energy Burn. In its place, we’re given an attack form of Gust of Wind. While Gust of Wind is a decent effect, without damage, it turns an already tough-to-set-up card into a less versatile, softer-hitting, less dragony waste of space.
019: Base Set Growlithe
Now, here’s an unusual card. It’s a 60-HP Basic, which is something we haven’t seen before. It only has a single attack, but for 1 Fire and one Colorless, it deals 20 damage with no special effect.
Right off the bat, two Energies on a Basic should raise red flags, but the 60 HP allows for a bit of a cushion for setup. The 20 damage one-shots Bulbasaur, and deals surprisingly hefty damage to anything that doesn’t resist fire (read: everything.)
So, here we have a decent Basic Fire-type. Are there any real drawbacks?
020: Base Set Arcanine
Of course there are, but they’re not as bad as they look at first.
Arcanine has a nice 100 HP, continuing the tankiness of its pre-evolution. It has two attacks, one of which is Charmeleon’s Flamethrower. In Charmeleon’s case, it was a risky attack to use, given that it ate Energy up like candy. Here, not much changes, but it’s easier to set up, given Growlithe’s two-energy attack.
The second attack, Take Down, does 80 damage. No discard, but it deals 30 damage to itself. In theory, this could be used to sweep a good number of higher-level Stage 1s and mid-range Stage 2s, but the recoil is a concern- any Pokémon with the ability to deal more than 40 damage is going to lock Arcanine into being an Energy drain.
Arcanine doesn’t have much to offer at first, but has potential as a late-game contender- strange when you consider that his pre-evolution is so very suited to early-game play.
021: Base Set Ponyta
So, here’s this 40-HP Basic that requires 2 Energy to attack. Two Colorless deals 20 with no effect, two Fire deals 30 with no effect. These are very high numbers for damage, but the HP stands in the way of their being truly useful. Ponyta may function better as a mid-to-late game ace because of this.
022: Base Set Magmar
And speaking of decent cards with too much setup to be worth it, here we have Magmar. Charmeleon’s Flamethrower, plus a differently-named Tail Flame. Magmar differs from Ponyta in that it has 50 HP and a lot more damage output. In a pinch, this thing can be even more of a monster than its equine cousin, but it suffers the exact same setup problems.
Next time, I’ll be looking at Water-types, and how a single ability can break an entire metagame.
Alright, so now that EToP’s out of the way, I figured I’d have a look at the TCG for Gen I. Let me be the first to say- I know very little about the meta of the game. I know how to play, and own once deck that’s fairly decent, but aside from that, most of my experience comes from alternately getting thrashed in TCGO matches and venting my frustration from those losses on the Game Boy Color game. So, I’m not the end-all-be-all source for matters pertaining to this game. You want that, look for TheJWittz on Youtube.
However, that is not to say that I’m an utter moron. Remember, I said that I own a decent deck. Given a small enough pool of cards to draw from, I can probably determine the worth of a card against its fellows.
Today, we’re going to start in on the Base Set- the original set of cards for the game. We’ll be going in the Japanese order for the set (that way, it’s a lot less random, and allows me to space out Stage 2 cards.) In addition, I’ll be looking at the rules, and how they function in practice.
In fact, the rules are probably the more important thing to look at right now. I mean, everyone I knew in elementary school owned at least one hundred of these things (until Yu-Gi-Oh came along, anyway,) but I think I knew maybe one other person who actually knew the rules.
I personally was taught that you look through the deck, pick a random card, and call attacks based on what was on the card. If you reduced the foe’s HP to zero, you placed both cards in your discard pile (similar to the card game War,) and repeat this until one or both of the players are bored out of their minds.
This, of course was completely wrong, and it would take the Game Boy game to fix my understanding of the rules.
Both players actually start out by shuffling their decks (probably after energy weaving them,) and draw seven cards. Both players place facedown as many Basic (unevolved) Pokémon from that hand of seven as they want (up to six.) Five of these are inactive on a back row (the Bench,) and one is placed in front of them (the Active space.) If one or both of the players has no Basic Pokémon, they reveal their hand, and shuffle it back into their deck before drawing again (similar to a Mulligan in Magic: the Gathering.)
Once they’ve finished setting down Basic Pokémon, both players place six cards facedown on the side of the field (the Prize cards,) and one player tosses a coin, and the other calls it. Depending who you’re playing with, the person winning the toss either goes first without any choice, or gets to choose who goes first. Truthfully though, unless you’ve got a very specific active Pokémon, you’re likely to want to make the first move, as speed is the most important aspect of the game.
From there, the players reveal their facedown Active Pokémon and Benched Pokémon, and the game begins.
The object of the game is to either draw all of your prize cards (which are won one-at-a-time as you KO your opponent’s Pokémon, unless a card states otherwise,) or to KO all of your opponent’s Pokémon (more difficult, given that they can play more Basics from their hand as long as they have less than five Benched Pokémon already in play.
KO’ing an opponent’s Pokémon is simple enough on paper- reduce its HP to zero. Each Pokémon has an HP score on the top right of the card. Most Pokémon have at least one damaging attack used to reduce the opponent’s HP.
From here, it seems fairly obvious- sling attacks at each other until one faints. However, each attack has an energy cost. Until this cost is met, the attack cannot be used. For example, a Pokémon with an attack of two Water energy cannot use the attack until two Water energy are attached to it. The only exception to this rule is the Colorless energy. Any energy can be used in place of a Colorless energy. Only one energy card can be played each turn, however, meaning that they need to be played wisely.
The game goes on for a few more levels of depth after that (I haven’t even scratched the surface of Trainer cards yet, or Pokémon Powers,) but that’s a very rough description of play. It’s one of those games that’s a lot harder to explain than to actually play, and if played with the right person, the game can be very fun. I recommend that you find a friend who knows how to play (or better yet, a rulebook and a deck,) and delve deeper into it.
Now, on to evaluating the cards. I’ll start with the Grass section of the Base Set, and cover more as we go on.
Overview: The Grass Type
The Grass-type has a number of advantages- namely, the prevalence of special conditions. Posion, Sleep, and Paralysis can be frustrating at best and an absolute nightmare at worst, and a high number of Pokémon have access to at least one.
Another concern is regeneration moves such as Absorb or Leech Seed. After all, it’s kind of hard to kill an enemy that keep growing its limbs back. These typically have a higher Energyy cost, but are so very worth it.
Grass is also tough to predict- it’s one of the types with two weaknesses (Fire and Psychic,) so it can be tough to counter. In addition, it hits some Fighting-types and a minority of Water-types for super-effective damage, so it’s also very good at exploiting weaknesses.
However, it also suffers a number of problems- namely, the Psychic weakness is a crippling one, as three types are weak to Psychic. This makes it a type that many will use based on its versatility. On the other end are Fire-types, which some may use just based on Charizard.
Grass-types are also harder to set up, given that many of them require two energies minimum to do any damage, and it’s rare that any given attack will use pure Colorless energy.
001: Base Set Bulbasaur
Alright, so here’s our first card. Overall, not very impressive. It boasts 40 HP, on the low end of Basic HP. Its only attack, Leech Seed, does an impressive 20 damage, and allows you to heal 10 damage after the attack resolves. However, it has a two-energy requirement, and neither of those is a colorless energy. It’s a slow starter, and should likely never end up Active from the start. However, it could potentially work well as a backup in case the actual Active gets taken down.
002: Base Set Ivysaur
Only slightly more impressive than its Basic form, Ivysaur has 60 HP, still somewhat low for a Stage 1. Both of its attacks deal respectable damage (Vine Whip dealing 30, and Poisonpowder dealing 20 plus Poison.) However, exactly like its Basic form, these attacks have absurd energy requirements. Each requires three energy to function, Poisonpowder requiring three solid Grass, and Vine Whip requiring one Grass and two Colorless. This is not as bad as Bulbasaur, assuming you’ve gotten enough energy to use Leech Seed, but it’s still not good. Posonpowder is the only attack worth using, given that Poison is an incredibly broken status, especially early on, when Pokémon had lower HP overall. Most cards I know of had you toss for its presence, but Ivysaur’s Poisonpowder comes with it guaranteed.
So overall, awesome but impractical.
003: Base Set Venusaur
Now you’re talking. Sort of.
So, the first thing to note about this card is its Pokémon Power, Energy Trans. As often as you like during your turn, you can shuffle around the Grass energies on all of your Pokémon. This is what the last two forms needed- an easy way to reach their high energy costs.
Speaking of high energy costs, it boasts the four-energy Solarbeam, an attack with no additional effects that deals 60 damage. It’s alright, and unlike later four-energy attacks, it has no real other drawbacks.
Venusaur boasts 100 HP, which is average-to-decent for a Stage 2 card.
004: Base Set Caterpie
Caterpie’s probably a better starting Active than Bulbasaur. It has the same disappointing HP, but compensates for it with String Shot, its only attack. For one Grass energy, it deals ten damage with a 50% chance of inflicting Paralysis. Paralysis basically makes the attack a free hit with no chance of retaliation, so it has a legitimate chance of taking down much more powerful ‘mons. The longer you go with this effect however, the greater your chance of failure, so it’s probably best to speed out an evolution. The one area in which Caterpie really falters is HP- 40 is not good.
As a side note, you may have noticed that a lot of Pokémon so far have 40 HP, which I keep describing as low. High-HP Pokémon are much less common, but that does not excuse HP so low that one attack could conceivably destroy it (a 20-damage attack from a Pokémon with a type advantage isn’t uncommon in this game.)
005: Base Set Metapod
This card is part of the reason Caterpie’s a better starter than Bulbasaur. 70 HP means that Metapod’s better at taking hits than Ivysaur, and Stun Spore continues Caterpie’s Paralysis trend. Two Grass Energy for 20 damage and Paralysis cannot be overlooked, especially in the Base Set.
Its other attack, Stiffen, is less than impressive. Two Colorless Energy mean that there’s a 50% chance that Metapod will not take damage next turn. While it can be used to stall in theory, it’s still a coin flip, and that makes it far less reliable than it seems. Honestly, if you’re having this much trouble pulling the proper Energy, maybe Metapod should have started on the bench.
So, after Caterpie and Metapod turned out so well, how’s Butterfree?
006: Base Set Weedle
Oh, right. We won’t get one of those until Jungle.
Weedle’s an unusual card in that it functions very similarly to Caterpie. Both are Grass-type, 40 HP Pokémon with a single-Energy attack that deals 10 damage plus a special condition. Unlike Caterpie, however, Weedle favors Poison, which is just as broken as Paralysis, but for different reasons. Poison is a condition that deals gradual damage over a few turns, and is very tough to get rid of. However, Paralysis does one thing that Poison cannot, and it’s this ability that makes Caterpie more viable than Weedle. Poison doesn’t stop an opponent’s movement.
Weedle is a decent starting Pokémon, but Caterpie is simply better, just based on lastability.
007: Base Set Kakuna
Just as Weedle is Caterpie’s poison counterpart, so is Kakuna to Metapod. Both share the nigh-useless Stiffen, as well as a 2-Energy, 20 damage attack with a special condition attached. However, two factors make Kakuna the worthier card- first, Weedle’s 10+Poison is viable, but not impressive. Kakuna’s 20+poison is a lot more effective, and puts it on Metapod’s level. The thing that makes it rise above, however, is its extra 10 HP. 80 is actually pretty high for a Stage 1 Pokémon, so you can expect to get a lot of mileage out of it.
008: Base Set Beedrill
And just like that, the momentum stops.
Beedrill is not nearly as impressive as its evolutionary relatives. The first problem is the fact that despite evolution, its HP does not change. This negatively affects its useability, as it will not last longer than Kakuna.
The attacks should be something really impressive to mitigate this, but they’re… not bad. That’s about all I can say- Poison Sting is 40 for 3 Grass plus chance of Poison, so that’’s okay. However, Twineedle is three colorless for an attack that does 30 damage. According to the card, it’s two coin flips, and 30 for each Heads, but in practice, it always seems to end up thirty (or worse, zero, which is a wasted turn.) No special effects, either, so it’s also pretty unimpressive in that regard.
009: Base Set Nidoran♂
And speaking of disappointment…
Here we have another 40 HP Basic. It’s attack seems pretty good from a distance- one Grass for 30 damage. Holy crap, that’s huge! Why is it such a-
Oh. 50% chance of attack failure. You lose a coin toss, and the move does absolutely nothing except bring your turn to an end before you’ve really finished. Compounding the issue is a Psychic-type weakness, which is actually very, very crippling.
At no point should Nidoran ever end up as your Active Pokémon. If it’s your only choice, you may as well just offer the GG now.
010: Base Set Nidorino
And this one isn’t much better. 60 HP, as we discussed, is pretty low. Its attacks aren’t anything to write home about, either- a 3-energy 30×2 coin flips attack (again, with a chance to do nothing at all,) and a 4-energy 50-damage attack with no extra effect. The Psychic weakness shows up here again.
Do not waste your time.
011: Base Set Nidoking
Do not waste your time. Get this monster out onto the field as fast as possible.
90 HP is on the average-low end of the Stage 2 pool, but its attacks more than make up for this (although the Psychic-type weakness is still a hurdle in that regard.)
First is Thrash, which is a guaranteed 30 damage. A coin flip afterward decides if you or your opponent takes 10 damage afterward. So, it’s either 40 damage to your foe, or 30 damage to them and a scratch to you. And you want to know the scary thing? That’s the more merciful attack.
Toxic requires three Grass, and deals 20 damage. Then, the attack follows up with a 100% chance of Poison, which has its damage doubled. That’s right- between now and the next time you attack, your opponent will have taken 40 damage if they heal the 20 from the attack. In a game where a lot of Basics have 40 HP, that’s almost a guaranteed kill.
This is what Beedrill should have been- a Poison-based powerhouse with great usability.
012: Base Set Koffing
I do not know how to feel about this one. 50 HP on a Basic (FINALLY,) and a 10-damage attack that guarantees a special condition. However, that attack requires 2 Grass before it can be used, and neither Poison nor Confusion are crippling enough to justify that cost for that damage. It should not be used to start, but may have some late-game application…
013: Base Set Tangela
50 HP on a Basic seems pretty good. I’ve mentioned its strength before. However, in most cases, Basics will improve. Tangela will not. Given that Tangrowth will not debut until Diamond and Pearl, that leaves Tangela in the rough position of being a single-stage Basic, with all the weaknesses of both (low HP, high-energy attacks) and none of the strengths (High HP, low-energy attacks.)
Really, you should avoid this one. There are far better single-stage Basics.
Next time, I’ll be looking at Fire-types, so I hope you’ll enjoy that!