Base Set: Psychic

Now you’re talking.

So, the first thing I usually do is explain the strengths and weaknesses of each type, but Psychic is…  very difficult to define.  They excel at so much with so little they’re bad at that I’m almost tempted to call them the best type in the game- you know, a representation of their typein the Gen I Game Boy games.  With type advantage against three types, a weakness versus themselves if they even have a weakness at all, and a plethora of different attack types with overall low Energy cost, it can certainly seem that way.  However, they tend to have mid-range HP at best, and attack damage isn’t always very high.  If we’re being optimistic, they share the first-place spot with another type (why am I waffling?  It’s Fighting, but we’ll discuss that later.)

So, what does Psychic do, exactly?  Well, it does quite a few Special Conditions- Paralysis and Sleep are big, but Confusion really enters the mainstream here.  It isn’t as broken as Paralysis, but it can still be crippling if the opponent isn’t perfectly lucky.

But that isn’t all it does.  It also has a lot of conditional damage- damage that relies on Energy count or the amount of damage an enemy has taken.  This is occasionally annoying, in that an untouched enemy will take minimal damage, but it’s more reliable than a coin flip.

043: Abra

Not a very impressive start, though.  What we have here is a flimsier Caterpie.  A one-Psychic Energy 10-damage attack with a Paralysis chance is decent, but Abra is less useful off the bat due to lastability problems caused by its 30 HP.  The zero retreat cost is nice, at least.  If you’re lucky, you can keep it alive until it evolves, but do not start with it.

044: Kadabra

Right off the bat, your eyes are probably going to be drawn to Super Psy, a two-Pshycic, one-Colorless 50-damage attack.  That one attack by itself is probably a major reason Kadabra is a major improvement over Abra- remember that a three-Energy 50 is very, very powerful, especially on a Stage 1 with one more evolution to go.  However, one of Abra’s weaknesses is on display here- namely, lower HP.  60 is a bit on the low end for a Stage 1, but it isn’t completely awful.  Keep it away from other Psychics, and it should be fine for a while.

Oh, yes, and Recover?  Kadabra is never going to be in tough enough of a spot to warrant burning an Energy to heal it and sacrifice an attack.  Anything that would would force it into that position is probably capable of knocking it right back down again, making this attack an inefficient stall.

One side note here- that retreat cost is ridiculous.  Zero to three in a single evolution.  Preposterous.

045: Alakazam

If you skipped the additional effects of its single attack, as well as the entirety of its power, you may be somewhat disappointed by Alakazam.  Three Psychic for thirty?  80 HP?  No fix for the retreat cost?  What a pile of-

Sit down.  Sit down right now, and behold the single best Cleric in the game.

Now, granted- the damage drop from 50 for three to 30 for three is a small disappointment.  However, a coin flip for Confusion means that this attack has a very real chance of functioning like a Paralyzing, delayed-effect Super Psy.  Confusion isn’t broken the way Paralysis is, but it does screw your opponent over in a different way- namely, it’s a real bitch to get rid of, and has a 50% chance to make the attacker smack themselves in the face every time they try to attack or retreat.  Even better- in older versions of the rules, retreating while Confused is hugely impractical, forcing you to discard the Energy before you determine if you’re successful.

But so what?  Other cards have access to Confusion, right?  Well, yeah, but not with 30 damage attached.  But if that doesn’t convince you, let’s have a look at its Power: you get to move damage counters on your own Pokémon around as you please.  As long as you don’t KO anything, you can load off damage from a powerful attacker as it accumulates, and keep them in the game.  This works even if Alakazam is on the bench, of course.

With Alakazam in your deck, you can basically run it with no Energy attached from the Bench, abusing its ability to have a CHarizard that never faints.  Or you can add Energy, and use it as an Auto-healing mage.  Honestly, one of the best evolved Pokémon in the Base Set.

046: Gastly

Sigh…  You were doing so well, Psychic-type…

So, back down to 30 HP.  Abra showed us that this can be manageable, given a decent-enough stall.  Gastly has two stalls, but neither one is efficient, or even deals damage.

The first one is Sleeping Gas.  A coin toss for Sleep.  And then another Coin Toss between turns because of the rules for Sleep.  If both are heads, the Defending Pokémon is out for that turn…  Assuming it isn’t switched or woken up via Trainer Card.  And it’s guaranteed- if any coin toss turns up tails, the response from the enemy is almost always a slap in the face that Gastly really can’t afford to take.

Destiny Bond is even worse.  Feed Gastly an Energy, and if it faints as a result of an enemy’s attack, the enemy goes down with it.  Great…Until you remember that such a thing is massively telegraphed.  So, you lose an Energy to stall the enemy a little.  And it doesn’t work if Gastly is KO’ed by Poison, either.  And you have to keep using it for it to work- it’s not a permanent effect.

Yeah, the lack of a weakness is okay, and the Fighting resistance is good, but don’t count on Gastly for anything.  Period.

047: Haunter

Did we not just discuss the problem with relying on Sleep?

It’s funny- Haunter almost seems like a Kadabra alternative with its 60 HP and very low-cost 50 damage attack.  However, its entire attacking game relies on Sleep.

The setup is Hypnosis, a no-damage, one-Psychic attack that is guaranteed to put the enemy to sleep.  Awesome!  One of the coin flips is removed, resulting in a 50% chance that the enemy remains asleep on its turn.  However, if it wants to use its massive 50-damage Dream Eater, another coin flip after that has to succeed to keep the enemy asleep on your turn.  Once again, a 25% chance to actually do anything.

And the worst part of all this?  Base Set lacks a Gengar.  Until Fossil a few months down the road, this is as good as Ghost-types will get.

Sad.

048: Drowzee

I don’t get this card.  It feels very much like they wanted to put a Hypno in this set, but couldn’t finish balancing it in time.  Our end result is a (currently) non-evolving Pokémon that feels like an evolving basic.  It starts with 50 HP- respectable.  It has a one-Colorless attack for 10, and a two-Psychic attack for 10 plus a chance for Confusion.  And…  That’s it, really.  Weird.

049: Jynx

Remember Electabuzz?  This one is his weird cousin.

So, Jynx continues the trend of really, really good Basics with 70 HP.  Its first attack, DOubleslap is nothing special- two coin flips for 10 each.  FOr one Psychic, it’s only a bit above average.  Where Jynx really shines, though, is its second attack, Mediatate.  Two Psychic and a Colorless deals 20 plus 10 for each damage counter on the enemy.  That’s right- it doubles the existing damage, and then adds twenty.  It fizzles out against many of the beefier threats in this game, but as a Basic killer, Jynx is unmatched, being able to 2HKO rather large numbers of Basics in the game.

050:  Mewtwo

This one makes me sad.

So, Mewtwo.  This Pokémon is the ultimate life-form of its world, having been cloned from Mew, an already powerful Pokémon, and made even stronger via genetic engineering.  It was unmatched in its debut Gen, being the most easily-accessible reason for the existence of Smogon’s Uber-tier.  In Gen VI, both of his Megas outclass GOD.

His first card blows.

60 HP is not bad, especially on a Basic.  However, his attacks are among the worst the type has to offer.  The first one, Psychic, deals damage based on the opponent’s Energy count.  A higher number of energies means more damage.  But I can already think of one flaw in this- the base damage is 10, and a large chunk of Colorless Pokémon resist Psychic.  They can basically whale on Mewtwo, destroying him over three or four turns, and never take a scratch.  Mewtwo’s enormous retreat cost doesn’t help this- three Energy to get out, and maybe fight again?  Ridiculous.

On top of that is Barrier.  One Energy burned means that your opponent cannot damage you next turn.  When has non-damaging burn been good before?  THe guarantee is nice, but not nice enough to save the card.
Sadly, it would take a Black Star Promo a year later to fix Mewtwo in the TCG.  But, well…  That’s a review for another time.

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