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A long, long time ago, January 9, 1999: the Pokémon Trading Card hit the States. The cards were what we now refer to as the Base Set. 102 cards. Six different basic Energy types. 25 Trainers. But most importantly, 69 Pokémon cards, 16 of which were... special. Holo. Shiny. Tin foil. Whatever you call them, they were pretty, they were rare, and they were valuable.
Nowadays, you can find cardboard boxes full of these on eBay for small prices. Along with their expansion sets, Jungle and Fossil, they were rotated out of tournament play, most of them never to be seen again. Some of them found themselves re-released—even today, you can find some of the staple cards from back then in the Platinum set, for example. But for the most part, these classics are done for. It's like the old Disney movies: they're not gonna make them like this anymore. So for one last time, we're going to grab those old VHS tapes and explore the golden oldies. Like a Disney Renaissance marathon.
The Pokémon Trading Cards of this era seem to be geared towards collecting than for playing. On the mat, these cards are extremely out of balance, with only a very small portion of them being viable. That has its good sides: it's easy to learn how to build a deck and play, making it very accessible. But it also gets repetitive fairly quickly, and you rarely get to try new things.
The game is mostly about speed and disruption, more-so than other generations. Unlike in some later games, there is no way to let a Basic Pokémon evolve the turn you play it (such as Broken Time-Space, or Rare Candy). So if you want your Bulbasaur to become the powerful Venusaur, it needs to survive a turn on the bench. And Gust of Wind can pull that Bulbasaur Active during your opponent's turn, and it will probably be facing one of the various large Basic Pokémon that can KO it, with or without the aid of various other Trainers.
That's the game in a nutshell: broken Trainers, powerful non-evolving Basics, and little evolution. We'll take a look at each of these. If you're new to the game or haven't looked at it in a long time, you might not immediately recognize cards mentioned. I would recommend to just keep reading, as I'll explain every important one.
Computer Search (Base Set)
Discard 2 of the other cards from your hand in order to search your deck for any card and put it into your hand. Shuffle your deck afterward.
It's hard to describe this card's use without stating the painfully obvious. It gets you any card you need. Any at all. You can search for a Professor Oak to get yourself a new hand, you can search the evolution of a matching Basic you have in play, you can search that Double Colorless Energy to allow your Scyther to attack, and so on, and so on. Computer Search is the only way to get a Trainer you want from your deck into your hand. It's also a good way to get cards in the discard if you want them there, such as Energy for Mewtwo to absorb, but most of the utility is basically having access to the right card at the right time.
Item Finder (Base Set)
Discard 2 of the other cards from your hand in order to put a Trainer card from your discard pile into your hand.
If you discarded a Trainer card for any reason, you might want it back sometime. Instead of using a Computer Search to search for another copy in your deck, you can use Item Finder to get it back from your discard pile for the same cost. This means you can still use that Computer Search and the other copy of that Trainer later.
Lass (Base Set)
You and your opponent show each other your hands, then shuffle all the Trainer cards from your hands into your decks.
A double-edged sword that should be used when you know it will hurt your opponent more than you, like when you have little to no Trainers in your hand. A great use for this card is to use it on turn 1 if you got to move before your opponent, as it will slow down their set-up significantly—plus you get to know their hand. This card gained much more utility when Neo Genesis Cleffa and its hand refreshing attack were introduced, of course, but even without Cleffa it's viable.
Pokémon Breeder (Base Set)
Put a Stage 2 Evolution card from your hand on the matching Basic Pokémon. You can only play this card when you would be allowed to evolve that Pokémon anyway.
Players of the EX or DP metagames might recognize this card as an inferior version of Rare Candy. Pokémon Breeder is often the only viable way of getting a Stage 2 monster out before it's on a one-way trip to the discard pile. A must-have in decks based around Stage 2 Pokémon such as Venusaur and Blastoise.
Pokémon Trader (Base Set)
Trade 1 of the Basic Pokémon or Evolution cards in your hand for 1 of the Basic Pokémon or Evolution cards from your deck. Show both cards to your opponent. Shuffle your deck afterward.
Another card players of later metagames might recognize: Pokémon Trader does exactly the same thing as Pokémon Communication. More useful in evolution-based decks than anything else, since other deck types will usually be looking for Trainers or Energy more often than Pokémon, and might prefer to discard any 2 cards rather than requiring a Pokémon to put into the deck.
Scoop Up (Base Set)
Choose 1 of your Pokémon in play and return its Basic Pokémon card to your hand. (Discard all cards attached to that card.)
Scoop Up is the ancestor of Team Galactic's Invention G-105 Poké Turn and, of course, Super Scoop Up. While it beats the former in universal utility (works on more than just Pokémon SP) and the latter in reliability (doesn't require a coin flip), it has the terrible drawback of discarding all evolutions, Energy, and other cards that might be attached to the Pokémon you're taking back. Therefore, you'll want to use it on Pokémon with low Energy costs. It works well to deny your opponent a Prize after they spent a turn or two trying to take your Active down, and it's also a good way to work around status. Decks containing Alakazam will find this card of great use: put as much damage on one Pokémon as you can with Damage Swap, then Scoop it Up.
Energy Removal (Base Set)
Choose 1 Energy card attached to 1 of your opponent's Pokémon and discard it.
Energy Removal is one of the most disruptive cards ever made. It essentially sets your opponent back for a turn, or more if you use it on their precious Double Colorless Energy cards. Not having enough Energy makes it harder if not impossible for opponents to attack or retreat when they plan to, which gives you more breathing room. As if Gust of Wind wasn't enough, Energy Removal completely ruins a lot of Pokémon based around high cost, high return attacks, such as Arcanine and Venusaur.
Super Energy Removal (Base Set)
Discard 1 Energy card attached to 1 of your own Pokémon in order to choose 1 of your opponent's Pokémon and up to 2 Energy cards attached to it. Discard those Energy cards.
Energy Removal's bigger cousin. You lose an Energy card the moment you expect it, your opponent loses two at a moment he definitely didn't. Like Computer Search, this can also be a way to get Energy in the discard for Mewtwo's Energy Absorption attack.
Energy Retrieval (Base Set)
Trade 1 of the other cards in your hand for up to 2 basic Energy cards from your discard pile.
While not as much of a staple as any of the above cards, Energy Retrieval is a decent trainer that can help you recover from a sudden barrage of Energy Removal and Super Energy Removal. It works best with Blastoise, who can put the recycled Energy to immediate use. Alas, it can't recover the limited Double Colorless Energy cards.
PlusPower (Base Set)
Attach PlusPower to your Active Pokémon. At the end of your turn, discard PlusPower. If this Pokémon's attack does damage to the Defending Pokémon (after applying Weakness and Resistance), the attack does 10 more damage to the Defending Pokémon.
Ten more damage can make an enormous difference in the Pokémon TCG. In BJF, this isn't even a situational statement: it applies to probably over half the turns taken. There are a lot of Pokémon whose attacks do 60 damage, or end up doing 60 damage over multiple turns: Wigglytuff's Do the Wave with a full Bench; Hitmonchan's Jab followed by Special Punch, or three Jabs; Blastoise's Hydro Pump with the maximum five Water Energy attached; Venusaur's Solarbeam; Scyther's Slash after Swords Dance, or two Slashes. That 60 damage fails to KO the five powerful bulky Basics: Hitmonchan, Scyther, Electabuzz, Magmar, and Mewtwo. In addition, 60 damage and two PlusPowers KOs Wigglytuff. That's what makes PlusPower such a great card: PlusPower allows you to KO something you'd normally fall short on, saving you from retaliation.
Professor Oak (Base Set)
Discard your hand, then draw 7 cards.
Sometimes, the simplest effect can be the most powerful one. Professor Oak is a good definition of back to basics: it goes through your deck. Cards you didn't find a use for this turn go into your discard, and you get seven new ones. With the right draws of Oak, Computer Search, and Bill, you can go through almost your whole deck in turn 1. It's not very uncommon for someone to end up decking out thanks to Professor Oak, but that risk is worth the pay-off of quick access to the next slice of your deck. A good contender for best Trainer in the game, you should put at least three in every deck you make.
Bill (Base Set)
Draw 2 cards.
And just when you thought it couldn't get any simpler, you notice Bill. Unlike many of the above cards that are considered extremely powerful, such as Professor Oak, Lass, Item Finder, and Computer Search, Bill has no real opportunity cost. Play it and you get a bonus two cards, end of story.
Gust of Wind (Base Set)
Choose 1 of your opponent's Benched Pokémon and switch it with his or her Active Pokémon.
Gust of Wind stops the bench from being a safe place to hide for your weak or damaged Pokémon. It punishes Pokémon with low HP, high retreat cost, or high attacking cost, and evolved Pokémon and their corresponding Basics often have at least two of these problems. Gust of Wind also allows its user to get good type match-ups. Someone brings in Scyther to stop your Hitmonchan cold? Use Gust of Wind to pull their Electabuzz or Jigglypuff Active and hit for double damage!
Switch (Base Set)
Switch 1 of your Benched Pokémon with your Active Pokémon.
If something is hurt badly or has a bad match-up but you don't want to or cannot Scoop Up or retreat, you can use Switch to escape the Active spot. Can be useful for Electabuzz and Hitmonchan to get to the bench without discarding 2 Energy. Also useful to escape paralysis from an Electabuzz ThunderShock, or a Magmar SmokeScreen.
These are the most versatile and useful Trainers in the set. Interestingly enough, all of them are from the Base Set, mostly because Jungle has only one Trainer and Fossil has five.
There are others that are as useful as the above but only in the right deck, but they will be mentioned when we get to the right Pokémon. There are also Trainers that are as universal, but not as useful, for example due to not being as reliable. The best example of this is Recycle (Fossil), which has a very useful effect (getting any card from your discard to the top of your deck), but needs a coin flip to work.
As you probably know, full lines in this generation can be either Basic, Basic-Stage 1, or Basic-Stage 2. The most popular and successful decks are Haymaker decks, which only use non-evolving Basic Pokémon. The lack of evolution cards gives the deck a lot of room for lots of Trainers that ensure the deck has access to the cards it needs to keep attacking and stop opponents from developing. I've already mentioned these powerful Basic Pokémon in the PlusPower entry, and I'll go over them in detail first. After that, I'll get to the few viable evolving lines, and other Basics that might be useful.
70 HP | W: | R: | RC:
- Jab (20)
- Special Punch (40)
Hitmonchan needs little to no explanation. Both of its attacks do vanilla damage for reasonable cost. Hitmonchan's main use is taking out Electabuzz, Jigglypuff, and Wigglytuff with two Jabs or one Special Punch. Special Punch KOs most evolving Basics, and if it doesn't, it usually needs only one PlusPower to do so. However, Hitmonchan's Jab quickly loses steam if your opponent manages to evolve, and it has very poor match-ups against both Mewtwo and Scyther (both of which are more flexible), so you need to support Hitmonchan with other strong Basics and some Scoop Up or Switch to get the most use out of him.
70 HP | W: | R: | RC:
- ThunderShock (10): Flip a coin. If heads, the Defending Pokémon is now Paralyzed.
- ThunderPunch (30+): Flip a coin. If heads, this attack does 30 damage plus 10 more damage. If tails, this attack does 30 damage and Electabuzz does 10 damage to itself.
Electabuzz is arguably faster and much more dangerous than Hitmonchan against a neutral match-up. ThunderShock is weaker than Jab, but offers a paralysis chance that can buy you time. Thunderpunch costs one Energy less than Special Punch, and does the same amount of damage if you flip heads. Over the course of two turns, Thunderpunch averages 70 damage, enough to KO anything with 70 HP. Even if you flip tails once, you can attach PlusPower to ensure the KO. Electabuzz' typing is very fortunate, as no common Pokémon resists Lightning, and the only good Pokémon with a type advantage against it is Hitmonchan. Electabuzz can ruin Water-based decks on its own, doing 60 or 80 damage to anything weak to it for the low cost of two Energy cards.
70 HP | W: | R: | RC:
- Swords Dance: During your next turn, Scyther's Slash attack's base damage is 60 instead of 30.
- Slash (30)
Scyther is the only Pokémon in Haymaker decks that has free retreat. That alone is extremely useful, as it allows you to send it Active without necessarily having to keep it there. For example, if your previous Active gets KOed on your opponent's turn, you send in Scyther. Then it's your turn, you draw a card, do anything else that might have unpredictable results (such as Bill or Professor Oak), and then you can make the decision to keep it in or bring in something else. Scyther's attacks are nothing to shake a stick at, either. Slash is a vanilla 30 with a flexible Energy cost that allows you to put Scyther into any type of deck. If you also put Grass Energy in there, you can use Swords Dance to make that first Slash you launch worth 60. You can even do this on turn 2 if you have access to Double Colorless Energy. Scyther is a perfect stop to Hitmonchan, but has trouble against Magmar.
70 HP | W: | R: | RC:
- Smokescreen (10): If the Defending Pokémon tries to attack during your opponent's next turn, your opponent flips a coin. If tails, that attack does nothing.
- Smog (20): Flip a coin. If heads, the Defending Pokémon is now Poisoned.
While its attacks might appear weak at first glance, Magmar is very useful. As you might have noticed, the only Haymaker Pokémon who have less than 2 Retreat Cost are Magmar itself and Scyther, who is weak to it. Both of Magmar's attacks encourage the opponent to pull out their Active, or they have to face the consequences of taking poison damage, or perhaps failing their attack. This means Magmar either wastes their Trainers (like Scoop Up or Switch) or their Energy. In conjunction with Energy Removal, Magmar is an enormous pest to try and KO. Obviously it does poorly against Water decks, so pair it up with Electabuzz. Both attacking and retreating with Magmar costs little Energy, making it flexible, and not as vulnerable to Energy Removal as others.
70 HP | W: | R: | RC:
- Energy Absorption: Choose up to 2 Energy cards from your discard pile and attach them to Mewtwo.
- Psyburn (40)
The final of the five. Energy Absorption turns Mewtwo in a combo machine, and a Pokémon that remains useful throughout the match. You can happily sacrifice your Energy cards to your own Professor Oak, Item Finder, Computer Search, and Super Energy Removal and have them back with just one attack. In addition, as long as you can keep one Energy on it, it can always recover from your opponent's Energy Removal and Super Energy Removal. And Mewtwo doesn't put that Energy to waste either: Psyburn is basically a Psychic version of Hitmonchan's Special Punch, but infinitely easier to set up. It will OHKO Hitmonchan and indeed itself, and 2HKO all other bulky Basics. Of course, Mewtwo does a pathetic 10 damage to those that resist Psychic, which unfortunately for it includes the powerful and popular Wigglytuff. Thankfully, the two Energies Mewtwo needs to discard when retreating or being Scooped Up can be put back on him with Energy Absorption.
That sums up the Haymaker ingredients when it comes to Pokémon. BJF has a few more cards to offer, but not a lot. Here they are, roughly in order of viability.
80 HP | W: | R: | RC:
- Lullaby: The Defending Pokémon is now Asleep.
- Do the Wave (10+): Does 10 damage plus 10 more damage for each of your Benched Pokémon.
This is miles and miles away the best Stage 1 evolution, if not the best evolution in the entire metagame. Wigglytuff can start dishing out OHKOs as early as turn 2 or 3, and all it needs to do so are standard cards. A Double Colorless and an Energy Card of your choice gets it the Energy it needs to use Do the Wave, and with enough Computer Search, Bill and Professor Oak in your deck, you should be able to pull out the Basics in your deck to make for a full bench. With that, you have a Do the Wave that's one PlusPower removed from OHKOing all of these 70 HP Basics. Jigglypuff, unlike many other evolving Basics, is not exactly a detriment in your deck: it has an above average 60 HP, and can stall with Lullaby. As mentioned above, Wigglytuff sets up for free against Mewtwo, but it can be KO'd by Hitmonchan fairly quickly. Of course, Wigglytuff is also vulnerable to Energy Removal, and the fact that it needs to evolve sets it back. But the ease with which it powers through the opposition is pretty much unmatched.
50 HP | W: | R: | RC:
Pokémon Power - Transform: If Ditto is your Active Pokémon, treat it as if it were the same card as the Defending Pokémon, including type, Hit Points, Weakness, and so on, except Ditto can't evolve, always has this Pokémon Power, and you may treat any Energy attached to Ditto as Energy of any type. Ditto isn't a copy of any other Pokémon while Ditto is Asleep, Confused, or Paralyzed.
In the "real" Pokémon games, Ditto is nothing but a gimmick. It's always one turn behind, and will always be a lesser form of its opponent. In the card game, however, Ditto turns the tables, as it will often be a stronger version of whatever your opponent has Active! Since Ditto's Pokémon Power states that you can use Energy attached to Ditto as Energy of any type, you can use Double Colorless Energy to power it up twice as fast as your opponent. You will generally get to the stronger attacks before your opponent will thanks to this. It also copies the opponent's type, which means Ditto and Mewtwo OHKO each other with Psyburn. Of course, Ditto also has weaknesses. If it has 5 or more damage counters on it while Active, it dies as soon as it hits the bench (since Transform doesn't work there) or gets statused. Or if your opponent brings in a Pokémon with less HP than Ditto has damage, it is Knocked Out as well, which is very bad since your opponent still gets to attack this turn. Nonetheless, Ditto can definitely play with the big boys, even a Haymaker deck.
100 HP | W: | R: | RC:
Pokémon Power - Rain Dance: As often as you like during your turn (before your attack), you may attach 1 Energy card to 1 of your Pokémon. (This doesn't use up your 1 Energy card attachment for the turn.) This power can't be used if Blastoise is Asleep, Confused, or Paralyzed.
- Hydro Pump (40+): Does 40 damage plus 10 more damage for each Energy attached to Blastoise but not used to pay for this attack's Energy cost. Extra Energy after the 2nd doesn't count.
Blastoise is the best Stage 2 you will find in BJF. While not without weaknesses, it's not something you should give the time to set up. Its 100 HP doesn't go down easily, and a full powered Hydro Pump is as powerful as Wigglytuff's Do the Wave with a full bench. Rain Dance allows you to attach as many as you like, so Blastoise allows you to recover from Energy Removal very quickly. Lapras and its 80 HP can buy you some time to raise that Squirtle, and Dewgong, Articuno and Gyarados can be used as attackers instead of Blastoise so you can keep your Rain Dancer on your bench, safe from status or damage. The latter two alternative attackers also have the advantage of not being weak to Lightning, which is very problematic for this type of deck in general considering the popularity of Electabuzz and Gust of Wind. Of course, using lines other than Blastoise takes up quite some deck space, so it may be preferable to stick with Hydro Pump.
70 HP | W: | R: | RC:
- Metronome: Choose 1 of the Defending Pokémon's attacks. Metronome copies that attack except for its Energy costs and anything else required in order to use that attack, such as discarding Energy cards. (No matter what type the Defending Pokémon is, Clefable's type is still Colorless.)
- Minimize: All damage done by attacks to Clefable during your opponent's next turn is reduced by 20 (after applying Weakness and Resistance).
As a "light" version of Ditto, Clefable only copies an opponent's attack when it uses Metronome, as opposed to all their other traits. That means it will always have 70 HP, making it less vulnerable to Gusting and retreating opponents. Clefable simply wins an exchange with Mewtwo thanks to its resistance to Psychic while it stays Colorless (unlike Ditto, where it's all about who attacks first), but this comes at the cost of being easy for Hitmonchan to KO. Clefable evolves from Clefairy, which is pretty bad since it only has 40 HP (OHKO'd by Hitmonchan Jab, PlusPower Scyther Slash, and oftentimes Electabuzz Thunderpunch), and its Metronome does exactly the same but for instead of . Minimize is worthless and you'll rarely run into a situation where it's useful.
40 HP | W: | R: | RC:
Pokémon Power - Invisible Wall: Whenever an attack (including your own) does 30 or more damage to Mr. Mime (after applying Weakness and Resistance), prevent that damage. (Any other effects of attacks still happen.) This power can't be used if Mr. Mime is Asleep, Confused, or Paralyzed.
- Meditate (10+): Does 10 damage plus 10 more damage for each damage counter on the Defending Pokémon.
Mr. Mime is either a wonderful doorstop, or a total waste of deck space, depending on what you're facing. Scyther, Wigglytuff, Mewtwo, and many of the Stage 2s listed below can't touch Mr. Mime, but Hitmonchan, Magmar, and Electabuzz have no real trouble with it (though Hitmonchan can get KO'd by Meditate if it has taken as little as 20 damage). It essentially uses the power of hard hitters against them to create time for itself to power up Meditate. It can be an interesting Pokémon to put into a deck with Mewtwo and/or Alakazam.
60 HP | W: | R: | RC:
Pokémon Power - Prehistoric Power: No more Evolution cards can be played. This power stops working if Aerodactyl is Asleep, Confused, or Paralyzed.
: Wing Attack (30)
Aerodactyl should be put into a Haymaker deck to ensure the opponent can't evolve. It's an extra failsafe to make sure Hitmonchan and friends stay on top of their game. Aerodactyl is a more permanent stop to the possibilities of evolution than repeatedly using searching cards, Gust of Wind, and PlusPower to make sure the opponent's Basics can't evolve. However, it really isn't much of a fighter itself: while it can OHKO Electabuzz with PlusPower, it needs to do so, and that's a lot to invest in a Pokémon that does even worse against Scyther than Hitmonchan does. Aerodactyl being a Stage 1 is more of a blessing than a curse in this case, since that means you can't end up being forced to start with it, and its Basic form (the Trainer Mysterious Fossil) doesn't give your opponent a Prize when it's Knocked Out. Haymakers with Aerodactyl do even better against Venusaur, Alakazam, Blastoise, and Wigglytuff than ones without, but they are worse off against opposing Haymakers due to the deck space required and the vulnerability to Scyther.
80 HP | W: | R: | RC:
Pokémon Power - Damage Swap: As often as you like during your turn (before your attack), you may move 1 damage counter from 1 of your Pokémon to another as long as you don't Knock Out that Pokémon. This power can't be used if Alakazam is Asleep, Confused, or Paralyzed.
- Confuse Ray (30): Flip a coin. If heads, the Defending Pokémon is now Confused.
A lot about Alakazam is disappointing. The whole line has low HP: 30, 60, and 80 for Abra, Kadabra, and Alakazam respectively (all of them getting OHKOed by Mewtwo's Psyburn), its attack's base damage is poor for its cost, and it has an enormous Retreat Cost. Overall, Alakazam is something you do not want to be in your Active spot.
On the bench, however, you can make full use of its marvelous Damage Swap power, which has interesting and useful combinations. The obvious thing to do is to put a strong attacker such as Mewtwo in the Active spot, and every time your opponent damages it you move the damage counters to something on your bench. Chansey makes for a great partner for Alakazam, since it's a Basic with an enormous 120 HP, meaning you can put up to 110 damage on it. Of course, you can't just keep doing that: your opponent is bound to use Gust of Wind to pick off your now damaged benched Pokémon, or you run out of possibilities to move damage to. This is where you move as much damage as you can to a Pokémon without Energy attached, and use Scoop Up to effectively heal a part of your bench. Or use the previously unmentioned Pokémon Center, which removes all damage counters on your side of the board, in exchange for all Energy cards attached to those you removed damage counters from. Just use Damage Swap to make sure the amount of Energy cards attached to your Pokémon with damage is zero, and you're good. Fossil Tentacool, while it only has 30 HP, has a Pokémon Power that essentially allows it to Scoop Up itself once every turn.
A lot of combo potential, but obviously held back by the difficulty of setting up a Stage 2 with low HP and a big weakness.
100 HP | W: | R: | RC:
As often as you like during your turn (before your attack), you may take 1 Energy card attached to 1 of your Pokémon and attach it to a different one. This power can't be used if Venusaur is Asleep, Confused, or Paralyzed.
- Solarbeam (60)
Venusaur is a lot like Alakazam, though safer in a lot of ways. Bulbasaur and Venusaur have more HP than Abra and Alakazam, for one, and Fire is less severe as a weakness (Magmar can only OHKO Bulbasaur). Venusaur's attack is also better, doing double the damage Confuse Ray does for just one more Energy (but it can't Confuse). Just like Alakazam, Venusaur works well with Chansey, Pokémon Center, (comma) and Scoop Up, though in Venusaur's case you move the Energy cards instead of the damage counters. Much of the same principle: move Energy away from Pokémon that are damaged, then heal them. Venusaur's method requires a little bit more retreating, but thankfully it has a very legit partner in Scyther. Energy Trans allows Scyther to use Slash after Swords Dance just one turn after coming out if you have some lying around on your bench. Venusaur can also combine with Mewtwo's Energy Absorption to keep an Energy cycle going, and it can (to some extent) help against Energy Removal. Another example of great, creative combinations held back by the need to evolve.
If you read all of this article so far, you probably understand what your average deck and duel in BJF looks like. A lot of 70 HP Basics, Ditto and Wigglytuff, and sometimes you'll run into Rain Dance, and even less often than that a deck with Alakazam or Venusaur. Most decks will run 3-4 copies of Professor Oak, Bill, PlusPower, Energy Removal, Super Energy Removal, Gust of Wind, and Computer Search, and the match comes down to who gets them first and uses them the most efficiently. Sadly, winning the initial flip is an enormous step towards having a great advantage, especially with Lass in the equation. Nonetheless, the game brings a great deal of nostalgia, and that alone makes it worth it.
Here is an example of a Haymaker deck. While it hasn't seen any action yet, it is so much like almost every other standard deck that I'm sure it will work. And if it doesn't, it's easy to change up since every card in it is extremely versatile.
Mewtwo forms the core of the deck, since it is probably the most effective against other Haymakers of all of them. Scyther is mostly for after KOs, and Hitmonchan is a safety measure against Wigglytuff and Clefable.
Many of the broken Trainers can be used freely even if you have to discard for it, since Mewtwo can recycle the Energy. Scoop Up is to get Hitmonchan out of there.
Basically, every one of the Basics just happens to have 6 Energy cards dedicated to it. It might seem a little much, but remember that it's four different types of Energy, and that Energy Removal is a large staple. Running less than this might seriously run you out, or you have to use Energy Absorption more often than you want to.
At the moment of writing this, the second Smogon TCG Tournament has entered its first round. After it has ended, we'll have done two out the four generations, leaving only BJF and EX to be played. I can see BJF being the next tournament, since more people will be familiar with it. However, I believe it might be more fun to construct an "UU" metagame within the BJF sets, where the relatively imbalanced Haymaker Basics and disruption/drawing Trainers get banned. This might bring some more creativity and diversity to people's decks, making for a more healthy metagame. Perhaps something else will dominate, but at least we can have some fun experimenting.
I said it in my introduction, and I'll say it again: these cards seem to be made for a collection rather than a duel between two players. That doesn't mean duels between BJF decks can't be fun, especially not if you like disruptive and fast metagames. So I encourage everyone to try their hand it once in a while, if only to practice for a possible future BJF tournament.
Card scans courtesty of PokeBeach.com
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