Side note: I am aware that rotation on the anime has started. I have begun writing episode reviews, and those will start going up when the Base Set Review finishes.
Water Types: In general, Water-types fall into two categories- attackers with scaling damage based on the number of energies attached, or glass cannons with questionable usability. The former can often be very powerful, while the latter… not so much.
The majority of Water-types are weak to Electric-types, something that is not helped by Electric’s higher versatility and generally high damage. However, a few eschew this route, and are instead hampered by a Grass-type weakness, something that can be devastating to them.
Overall, Water can be very useful for damage, and can become incredibly powerful late-game due to Blastoise’s Pokémon Power, but caution should be exercised when using them.
023: Base Set Squirtle
Alright, so here we have a prime example of a card type that shows up way too often in the early days- the one-trick pony masquerading as a versatile ‘mon. 40 HP means that durability is shot straight to hell, and the electric-type weakness is a major hurdle. Its single damaging attack, Bubble, makes it seem like a slightly better Caterpie, what with the identical effect and Energy cost (one Energy matching the card’s type.) However, its second attack is Withdraw. One Water and one Colorless feature an effect identical to Metapod’s Stiffen- a fifty-fifty shot at taking no damage. If Squirtle were tankier, I may have considered this worthwhile, but it didn’t work on Metapod. Metapod, who has 30 more HP than the tiny turtle.
Start with it if you must, but only if you feel that you can’t pull off any other start.
024: Base Set Wartortle
Remember how I indicated that Squirtle is like a Caterpie pretending it’s versatile? Wartortle is still hiding under that disguise, but it’s grown out of it, and is starting to show that it’s a whole different animal underneath.
Hopefully, that metaphor didn’t fall apart near the end there.
Anyway, Wartortle’s stell got Withdraw. It hasn’t improved. What has are it HP and damage output. For a shockingly good one Water and two Colorless, this powerhouse can drop 40 damage with no additional effects. Now, that entails letting it live long enough to deal it, and 70 HP has the potential to let it get at least one good hit in. However, the Electric weakness is back to ruin your day, and that adds the final ingredient to the mixed bag that is Wartortle.
025: Base Set Blastoise
I think I hear a Latin choir chanting in the background.
So, rounding out our Starter trio, we have Blastoise. Is he worth the hell his pre-evolutions put you through?
Yes. A thousand times yes.
100 HP means that this guy is a powerhouse, and he’s finally managed to become worth the weakness. His Pokémon Power, Rain Dance, has become legendarily associated with brokenness in this game. As many times as you like, you can stack Water Energies from your hand onto any of your Water-type Pokémon.
Allow me to reiterate this. Any. Time. You. Like.
Now, obviously, you can only do this on your turn. But what does this mean for, say, Blastoise’s own Hydro Pump? Three Water Energies does 40 damage. Alright, nothing to write home about- until you discover that this attack increases in power for every additional Water Energy attached to Blastoise.
Getting the picture yet?
Obviously, this guy’s a beast, and is totally worth slogging through the previous two stages. This is a final evolution. This is a starter at its most powerful. High power, low cost… It’s everything you could ask for in this game.
And yet, this is not the most horribly borked card in the set. No word yet on that one, but you’ll know it when you hear of it.
026: Base Set Poliwag
So, right away, you’ve probably noticed the one glaring feature of this card- its Grass-type weakness. No card so far has been this dead on arrival, but let’s look a bit at the card before tossing it into the fire.
40 HP- still not good. Its attack is decent- one Water deals 10 damage, and the damage increases for every extra Water Energy attached, but capping at 30 damage.
So what’s wrong with this card? It folds like tissue paper fighting Grass-types. Hypothetical game- 50% chance of doing any damage to Caterpie at all. At its best, it could only almost KO Weedle. Against Bulbasaur, it might get 30 damage in before being one-shotted. Koffing it could probably kill, but only if it got really lucky.
Are you seeing the problem here?
An Electric weakness on other Water-types is mitigated somewhat by the nigh-ubiquitous Fighting-type weakness on Electric-types. A Grass-type weakness means that to be functional, you need to prepare for one or both potential weaknesses that Grass-types can have, or just be very tanky. Poliwag is not the former, and spanning three types is just too much of a risk.
027: Base Set Poliwhirl
60 HP, and the Grass weakness is still a problem. Right off the bat, this thing needs to perform well in order to survive. Move-wise, it has a two-Water disabling attack (potential for fighting Stage 2s with Pokémon Powers, but not much.) Its second is a 30x coin flipping move for two Water and one Colorless.
Basically, this thing fares no better than its pre-evolution- most Grass-types at Stage 1 or higher can take it on with zero issue, and anyone who whips Fire out at it can still take it down with a bit of luck.
028: Base Set Poliwrath
Finally, something we can kind-of-sort-of-maybe call useful.
90 HP and a Grass-type weakness don’t exactly scream usability, but its attacks are worth a look. Water Gun deals 30 for two Water and one Colorless, and increases in damage for every extra Water, up to a cap of 50. Whirlpool, however, is slightly more devastating, especially for Fire-types. Two water and Two colorless deal a flat 40 damage, and you get a free Energy Removal. Now, Energy Removal is a very, very powerful card effect. The trainer card that used to allow it has not been reprinted since the Base Set 2, and this card lets you attach damage to it.
So, a glass cannon. Can it dish out pain? Yeah. Is it worth its pre-evolutions? No.
029: Base Set Seel
And here we have it- the most boring card in the set.
Seel has 60 HP, which is really good for a Basic. It has one attack- for one Water, 10 damage. No effect. Nothing else. Weakness to Electric, but that was obvious.
030: Base Set Dewgong
Now, you’re talking.
So, Seel has one huge advantage- its chunky HP means that you probably got more than one Energy attached to it. If so, Dewgong rewards you with Aurora Beam, a two-Water-one-Colorless 50-damage NUKE TO THE FACE. Or, if that’s overkill, it also has Ice Beam, which for two Water and two Colorless deals 30, and has a chance of paralyzing your foe.
Incredible, even with 80 HP and an Electric weakness. A prime candidate for Rain Dance.
031: Base Set Staryu
You remember how I said that Poliwrath was a glass cannon? Well, Staryu’s even more so. 40 HP and an Electric-type weakness don’t scream “Use me!” However, one Water for 20 damage does, and this card can take down a good number of Electric Basics in two hits. In other words, if it goes first, it can turn the tables on its weakness. Can you do that, Poliwrath?
032: Base Set Starmie
So, Staryu was a dream come true for a first-turn card. Its evo? Not so much.
Starmie continues the awful trend of the useless first attack with Recover, a move that might have utility if it didn’t eat your Energies. Oh, and if the card didn’t have 60 HP and an Electric weakness.
Its other attack, Star Freeze, is basically its pre-evolution’s 20-damage attack, except with two Colorless and the potential for Paralysis tacked on. Not stellar, but not enough to kill the card.
033: Base Set Magikarp
I think we all know what to expect here.
30 HP, and two attacks. A Colorless deals 10, and a Water deals 10x the number of damage counters on Magikarp (so, up to 20 damage.)
It’s Magikarp. Do I really need to say anything else?
034: Base Set Gyarados
Okay, so let’s talk a minute, here. We have Magikarp, which the game makers obviously didn’t expect to last more than a turn or two. Next, we have Gyarados, which has lastability in mind, but at a price.
Gyarados probably depends on Rain Dance more than any card in the set. It uses all Water Energy cards on its attacks, but deals incredibly heavy damage. Three buys you 50, and four buys you 40 plus possible paralysis. This, plus a resistance to the incredibly powerful Fighting type make this a card worth using.
100 HP is also nice, and this card pretty much laughs in the face of its sudden Grass-type weakness. This thing basically embodies Awesome But Impractical for its reliance on Rain Dance, but it is beyond worth it.
A Potter’s Seal of Approval card.