Back to Basics
08 Apr, 2011
Find easy ways to improve your deck with a great cast of Basic Pokémon in the latest Pokémon TCG expansion.
One interesting aspect of the Pokémon TCG: Call of Legends expansion is the number of strong Basic Pokémon you'll find in it. Of course, there are many Legendary Pokémon in this expansion, and you can expect them to pull their own weight. But there are other non-Legendary Pokémon, such as Mawile, Smeargle, and Seviper, that can make your deck more potent without a lot of work.
In general, the higher Stage of evolution a Pokémon is, the stronger it is. We see it in the Call of Legends expansion with Feraligatr (25/95), Meganium (27/95), and Typhlosion (35/95), all of which are Stage 2 Pokémon and much stronger than the Pokémon they evolved from. But it takes multiple turns to evolve a Pokémon, turns that might be better spent on the offense. Plus, you have to make sure you have their entire evolutionary chain in your deck. For example, you can't get your Typhlosion into play without first playing Cyndaquil and then Quilava. Suddenly, you need to reserve a lot of space in your deck just to keep a couple of Typhlosion in your deck.
On the other hand, Basic Pokémon can be added to your deck with little difficulty. They're not reliant on other Pokémon to evolve from, and they leave you room to add more Trainers, Supporters, and the like as you see fit. The downside remains that they're rarely as powerful as some of the Stage 2 Pokémon. Still, by targeting the needs of your deck, you can find Basic Pokémon that are both powerful offensively and useful strategically.
Before going into some examples and suggestions for Basic Pokémon, there's one more thing to consider. A lot of Trainer and Supporter cards are targeted specifically at Basic Pokémon. For example, Dual Ball (78/95) Trainer card and the popular Pokémon Collector (HeartGold & SoulSilver, 97/123) Supporter card are two easy ways to get great Basic Pokémon into the action.
Addressing the Need
Many Basic Pokémon can be added to your deck to support a greater overall strategy. For example, they may be particularly adept at allowing you to draw cards, inflicting Special Conditions, or setting up stronger Pokémon and their attacks. While it's true that Trainer and Supporter cards may overlap some of these tasks, the nice thing about Pokémon is that they can often perform their role over and over again as long as they stay in battle, whereas Trainer and Supporter cards can be used only once and then they're gone. Plus, you may get a secondary benefit from a Pokémon (such as a second attack) that other cards simply can't supply.
Early in your game, having a wide range of cards at your disposal is an advantage because it allows you to prepare for battle with a greater deal of flexibility. Mawile (64/95) is a Basic Pokémon that can expand that flexibility—its Selfish Draw attack lets you draw an extra card and choose whether to keep or discard it. If you discard it, you get to draw yet another card. Plus, the attack only costs 1 Colorless Energy, meaning you don't need to have specific Energy to use Selfish Draw. Or to draw even more cards, check out Relicanth (69/95), which lets you draw 3 cards each turn by putting a card from your hand into the Lost Zone. That may be too high a price to pay for some decks, but it sets up quite well both Lucario (14/95) and Mew Prime (HS—Triumphant, 97/103) if you're sending Pokémon to Lost Zone.
You can get more specific with your drawing power by using Skarmory (31/95); its Steel Coat attack lets you get a Metal Energy out of your deck and attach it to your Pokémon. Thus, Skarmory is virtually indispensible in a Scizor Prime (HS—Undaunted, 94/91) deck. You can also get good growth by using Tangela's (72/95) Nutritional Support attack, which can attach Grass Energy to itself before evolving Tangela into Tangrowth. Tangela is no slouch on its own, however: its Poisonpowder attack does 30 damage and causes Poison to the Defending Pokémon, which is often enough to cause problems for your opponent.
Ready for a Fight
Using Basic Pokémon to set up stronger evolved Pokémon is a good idea, but it doesn't always achieve your goals. Sometimes you need Pokémon that are good for battle all on their own. For this, you'll find heavy hitters such as Snorlax (33/95), which can pound your opponents for 80 damage with its Clomp Clomp Clobber attack. Then there's Zangoose's (39/95) Lost Claw attack, which does 30 damage plus you get to choose a random card from your opponent's hand to send to the Lost Zone. Lost Claw is made even more powerful by using Swords Dance on the previous turn to charge it up to do 60 damage. The nice thing about both Snorlax and Zangoose is that all of their attacks require only Colorless Energy, making them potent no matter what kind of Energy you're running, and they're good candidates for Double Colorless Energy (HeartGold & SoulSilver, 103/123).
Additional strong Basic Pokémon include Hitmonlee (58/95), which features two pretty great moves for a Basic Pokémon. Its Kick attack does 20 damage for only 1 Fighting Energy. (Compare that to Riolu (50/95), which has a Tumble Over attack that does the same damage for the same Energy but prevents Riolu from attacking the next turn.) With another Fighting Energy and a Colorless Energy attached, Hitmonlee can follow up with its High Jump Kick attack, which slams the Defending Pokémon for 60 damage! Obviously, the Energy requirements are more difficult to meet, but the payoff may well be worth it. There's also a lot of potential in Totodile (74/95). Its Aqua Tail attack does 30 damage plus you flip a coin for every Water Energy attached to Totodile and add 20 damage for each heads. This is a great example of a Pokémon that stands on its own as a Basic Pokémon but that has the extra benefit of evolving into stronger Pokémon.
Besides strategic support and offensive power, there are a few other cards to look at that are just plain fun to use. Smeargle's (21/95) Portrait Poké-Power lets you choose a Supporter card from your opponent's hand and use its effect for yourself. Smeargle has to be your Active Pokémon, but since Portrait doesn't end your attack, you're free to follow up with its Tail Rap attack, which does 20 damage for each heads you get in two coin flips. Mr. Mime (29/95) serves a similar purpose: its Trick Reveal Poké-Power forces both you and your opponent to reveal your hands. If you use it while Smeargle is in play, it may help you decide whether to put Smeargle into the Active position and use its Portrait Poké-Power.
For many players, Basic Pokémon are just a stepping stone to tougher Pokémon, but that doesn't have to be the case. Many Basic Pokémon are good enough to be important aggressors in your deck all on their own. With some strategic thinking and a willingness to experiment with different combinations of cards, Basic Pokémon can become an essential part of any winning deck.
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