Pokémon is a phenomenon which has been around for a long time. It was the end of 1999 which saw the western release of the Pokémon Trading Card Game, and so began a very long history of the game. Being a child when the game began, opening boosters from base set was something I could remember only doing once. In fact, I am certain I opened only one booster and received nothing worth remembering, although I do remember my logic back then was that picking the Charizard pack should have meant I got a Charizard.
Fast forward to 2016 and the only way I would be able to pull a base set Charizard from a booster pack would be to get super lucky from buying single boosters from eBay or buying sealed booster boxes which can go for hundreds if not thousands of dollars. This was true at least until earlier this month when Pokémon launched it’s latest expansion, ‘Evolutions’ which is a homage to the game’s very first ‘Base Set’, featuring original art and reprising the layout/style of the cards from all those years ago.
Most cards in the set feature artwork from back then, but most if not all of them have been altered text/mechanics-wise. Their HP, attacks and weakness/resistances have all been fair game as far as changes go, all of which reflect the ‘Power Creep’ – the increase in power of cards in the design of todays game which would otherwise render most of these cards too weak to be competitive. Pokémon that had ‘Poké-Powers’ before now have ‘Abilities’ and some which did not have powers now do so. Evolutions also contains EX and Mega Pokémon and a full compliment of Trainers which are both new and old.
The set in all of its wonderful, nostalgic glory is perhaps best experienced for yourself – I definitely recommend going out to your local game store to buy a couple of packs for that alone. If that’s a little out of reach for you, or you simply can’t wait to see what’s in the set, Pokémon.com has you covered.
Beyond the trip down memory lane, this set still manages to deliver some interesting and playable cards and so I will cover my top 5 cards in this set.
1. Brock’s Grit
Brock’s Grit is a Supporter card with a relatively useful recovery effect. Brock allows you to return any combination of Pokémon and Basic Energy to your deck. Other cards with a similar recovery effect suffer various drawbacks – Super Rod is an item, so cannot be used later with Vs Seeker and only returns a combination of 3 whilst Karen, a recently released supporter, returns all Pokémon from both discard piles, but doesn’t recover energy.
Brock is a useful, flexible middle ground, allowing you to recover a batch of Pokémon and energy to tide you over when necessary.
Starmie is under the spotlight due to its useful ability ‘Space Beacon’. This card returns 2 basic energy cards to your hand once a turn at the cost of discarding a single card. It essentially turns any card in your hand into an Energy Retrieval.
Energy recovery is an important aspect of a number of decks and could very well see play in decks such as Volcanion and Greninja. It’s a single prize Pokémon and at 90HP can be searched for with Level Ball (and Dive Ball with its water typing).
The king of the original 151, Mewtwo, is included here in its basic non-ex form. It boasts an increase in HP from its original iteration to 130 which brings it in line with other non-ex legendary Pokémon cards. Whilst it’s infamous ‘Barrier’ attack is back (albeit with a nerf which stops you from using the attack repeatedly) it is the first attack where this card really shines.
Psychic for 2 colourless energy does 20 plus ’20 more damage for each Energy attached to your opponent’s Active Pokémon’. This makes Mewtwo a super useful and easily included tech to threaten revenge KO’s on opposing M Mewtwo-EX which are loaded with energy attached thanks to the Psychic typing of this Mewtwo and the Psychic weakness of the M Mewtwo-EX.
Otherwise Mewtwo is still capable of a strong attack or two and surviving attacks thanks to its high HP and access to ‘Fighting Fury Belt’.
Rattata is here thanks to its fantastic ability ‘Mischievous Fang’ which discards tools attached to your opponent’s active Pokémon when it is played to the bench. In a world without Startling Megaphone or Xerosic, tool removal cards are few and far between. Rattata is excellent as it is searchable and potentially reusable if it is sent to the discard pile and recovered.
It is still no answer to Garbodor, but in a world ruled by ‘Fighting Fury Belt’, it is certainly welcome.
Rounding out my top 5 is Dragonite-EX, included for its useful ability in ‘Pull Up’ which allows you to retrieve two Pokémon from your discard pile and put them into your hand. This kind of recovery is extremely useful as it puts the cards straight back into your hand – most others (such as those discussed before with Brock’s Grit) put those cards back into your deck, forcing you to search for them before they can be useful.
Dragonite-EX is a particularly potent addition to cards who’s Pokémon leave the board due to effects at play such as the optional cost M Gardevoir-EX’s ‘Despair Ray’ attack, allowing you to chain together multiple, powered up attacks whilst also gaining the benefit of bringing back Pokémon like Shaymin-EX to draw.
Before I sign off, I wanted to give three quick mentions to cards that didn’t quite make my top 5 but should still be on your radar.
This card is interesting in that having four in play at once would see you attacking anything on the opponent’s side of the board for as much as 160 damage with ‘Swarming Sting’. Even just three Beedrills is enough to KO a Shaymin-EX. Throw in the fact that we now have Mew-EX to alleviate the pressure on keeping Beedrill in play, Forest of Giant Plants to quickly evolve into Beedrill and Revitalizer to recover lost Beedrills, it may be a fun deck to consider building.
Interestingly, with the reprints of the Venusaur, Blastoise and Charizard Mega evolution lines, we also got new spirit link cards to make them worth considering. M Venusaur-EX is on the cusp of playability with its guaranteed paralysis whilst M Blastoise-EX has a manageable attack cost and could well slot into a Water Box deck. The Generations M Blastoise isn’t too bad either. Not too sure about M Charizard-EX’s playability. Speaking of which…
Charizard – It’s Charizard! In all of its base set artwork glory. Charizard may not exactly be playable, but it is an iconic card nonetheless. Any card with ‘Charizard’ in its name will fetch a pretty penny. Staff Promo prints of this card went for hundreds of dollars on eBay and the Pre-Release promo is very expensive if you’re looking to acquire it for your collection.
Even the regular set holo version of this card is worth a pretty penny, so look to make a quick sale if you acquire one and are not collecting in particular.
I’ll finish up by admitting that despite being out for a few weeks now, I have yet to pull that fabled Charizard from a booster pack yet. It is an odd feeling to know that I will (and I will!) be able to change that age old story of never owning a base set charizard this way, even if it technically isn’t that same one. I am looking forward to adding it to my collection.