THE POWER IS ON!
Joined: Wed Aug 04, 2004 3:29 am
Location: Purple Ranger
I've been playing TCG GB a lot in the past couple of days and one of the nice things about it is that there are only 228 cards, making it actually possible to keep track of them all. (As I said in another thread, I think the sheer quantity of cards is the main reason we have never gotten more sequels to the TCG spinoff series.) And while discussing the overall types in the Game Boy game with Krisp and Blue Baby Dragon in the chatroom, it's really obvious that the types in TCG GB are incredibly unbalanced. Observe:
Top Tier - Water
Upper Tier - Fighting, Grass
Mid Tier - Colorless, Psychic
Bottom Tier - Fire, Electric
Want justification for this tier list? Good.
Water is the biggest type in TCG GB, as is its basis type in the main series. In the card game, it represents both Water and Ice-type Pokemon, although the later is only relevant when it comes to Articuno's type. Water doesn't have any resistances in the card game unless the Pokemon is a dual-type with the other type having one; almost all of the Water Pokemon are weak to other Lightning or Grass, with no rhyme or reason for one being chosen over the other for most of the pool. (The TCG also rather stupidly made Gyarados weak to Grass rather than Electric, making the main series games weep.) Generally, the Water Pokemon have average to high HP, average retreat costs and no resistances. On first glance they look very MOR.
However, Blastoise's Pokemon Power, Rain Dance, can turn any match upside-down when used as part of a deck that supports the archetype. Rain Dance is an absolutely ridiculous Pokemon Power, removing the restriction of only one Water Energy card being attached per turn. With it, just about any Water Pokemon becomes a dozen times more dangerous, not the least of which are the many Water cards that have an attack like Water Gun, which grows in power for each extra Water energy attached to the user. In the blink of an eye, a Rain Dance user can get Blastoise out and have a full squad of Blastoise, Seadra, Lapras, Dewgong or Gyarados ready to rip your team apart.
In addition to Rain Dance's ridiculousness, Water's lack of defining weaknesses is the other main factor that pushes it up to the top spot. Water is not resisted by any other type, unlike Fighting; yet it still hits its fair share for super effective, unlike Colorless; it doesn't suffer from Psychic's low HP average; and recoil or Energy discarding for the Water Pokemon are virtually non-existent, unlike Lightning and Fire respectively. A few of the Water Pokemon can Paralyze, but mostly they rely on beatdown from Water Gun or Hydro Pump attacks. It works.
Coming up just behind Water is Fighting. Covering the Game Boy types of Rock, Ground and Fighting, Fighting is probably the type with the most varied weaknesses and resistances. Like Water, Fighting is the focal point of another one of the earlier TCG archetypes: Haymaker. Both Machop and Hitmonchan have the ability to attach one Fighting energy and do 20 damage, which was a great boon when most Basic-level cards still had an average of 40 HP. Diglett, while having low HP, was also great at early game pressure due to its ability to do 30 damage for two Fighting energy. Hitmonchan and Hitmonlee were Basic that still packed a punch in the late-game, and Dugtrio could wreck a LOT.
Like Water, Fighting benefits in the tier list from the lack of a defining weakness. There's no recoil or discarding costs on their attacks. Their attacks tend to do high damage for lower-than-average Energy costs, and they have average to above average HP. However, the main reason that Fighting loses out to Water is that two specific groups of Pokemon have a resistance to Fighting attacks: Flying-derived Colorless cards and Ghost-derived Psychic cards. This means that Fighting is an easier type to wall than Water, and it also lacks a strategy-defining Pokemon Power like Rain Dance or Energy Trans.
Grass rounds out the Upper Tier. Like Water and Fighting, Grass is one of the biggest pools in the card game, as Grass in TCG GB represents the video games' Grass, Bug and Poison-type Pokemon. Grass and Bug-derived Pokemon are weak against Fire, while the Poison ones have a Psychic weakness. Also like Water and Fighting, Grass benefits from its weaknesses being from the lower-tier typings. It also lacks the defining weaknesses of the lower tiers, such as energy costs, low HP or discarding.
Like in the video games, the TCG incarnation of the Grass type focuses on disruption. However, status effects are MUCH more potent in the TCG (except Sleep) because you're pretty much stuck with the effects of Paralysis, Poison or Confusion unless you happen to carry Full Heals. Grass Pokemon also benefit from draining moves and, in a game where healing is downplayed, attacks like Mega Drain do come in quite handy. Almost all of the Grass Pokemon have either a status inducer, a healing move, or both, which is why they are so useful.
Grass also benefits GREATLY from Base Venusaur's Energy Trans Pokemon Power. While not as broken as Rain Dance, Energy Trans is quite useful in its own right, and running combos of Venusaur/Exeggutor/Butterfree makes it quite easy to wrack up damage. Exeggutor, in particular, is one of the best Grass Pokemon due to its Big Eggsplosion attack. With Venusaur feeding it tons of energy that give it a coin flip's chance to inflict 20 damage, Exeggutor's damage output can quickly verge on ridiculous. Grass Pokemon also have decent HP, which helps. It's a very potent type, but it lacks the extra *oomph* of a game-defining archetype the way Water and Fighting have Rain Dance and Haymaker.
Colorless places in the Mid Tier because it is easily the most versatile type in the card game, representing the Game Boy types of Normal, Flying and Dragon. However, it does have a few issues that prevent it from going higher. While decks that are built around ONLY Colorless aren't common (and indeed TCG GB ignores Colorless in favor of having "Rock" and "Science" clubs), Colorless Pokemon can easily slip into any other deck. This means that Colorless plays more of a supporting, neutral role and therefore it makes sense to place it smack in the middle.
While Colorless can't hit anything for super effective damage, almost all of the Colorless Pokemon come with resistances. Pure Normal-derived Pokemon, as well as Dratini and Dragonair, come with resistances to Psychic, while Flying-derived Pokemon, including Dragonite, are weak against Lightning and resist the weaknesses of their Normal-derived counterparts: Fighting. This gives Colorless some variety. However, it is a rather weak type in the early game, with only Farfetch'd being able to inflict high damage immediately (although it's no guaranteed).
However, a lot of the Colorless Pokemon, due to this supporting role, are fit into a stalling mode, including Chansey, the queen of stall; her lady in waiting, Kangaskhan; their king, Snorlax; and the joker, Lickitung. The other notable Colorless family is Wigglytuff, who easily can abuse its Do the Wave attack by filling up the bench with Mysterious Fossils and Poke Doll. Conversely, Normal has what is probably the single WORST Pokemon in the card game: Base Porygon. Altogether, Colorless is a pretty MOR type meant to add something that the rest of your deck lacks. While that's helpful, it also means that Colorless doesn't have a defined identity or strategy itself, and thus it gets placed in the middle.
Despite its lower tier placement, Psychic is not that bad. Representing the Psychic and Ghost types from the main series, Psychic-derived Pokemon in the TCG are strangely weak against themselves while Ghost-derived ones have no weaknesses and a resistance to Fighting. Psychic was simply screwed over its strange type properties in the card game. Having a mirror match weakness means that any confused Psychic basically has a coin flip's chance to nail ITSELF for a whopping 40 damage, and Colorless' nonsensical resistance to Psychic, when Colorless Pokemon can fit easily into any type of deck, really hurts Psychic's damage output.
However, not is all lost for Psychic. What saves Psychic from the bottom tier are two notable Pokemon and their Pokemon Powers: Alakazam's Damage Swap, when teamed up with Chansey and Pokemon Center, was one of the most notorious early-TCG combos, as Damage Swap let Alakazam unload all of the team's damage onto HP monster Chansey to little ill effect. The other infamous Psychic Pokemon Power is Mr. Mime's Invisible Wall, which made Mr. Mime the only Pokemon in the game who could NOT be 2HKOed. Mr. Mime is an absolute nightmare in the late-game when the opponent's Pokemon are evolved, and entire Pokemon are completely crippled due to Invisible Wall.
One of the better attacks on the Psychic Pokemon, shared by Mr. Mime with his pal Jynx, is Meditate. Meditate, while it can't OHKO anything ever, is actually a great attack at dishing out damage quickly because it has a base rate that is boosted by the damage counters on the target. Base Mewtwo also has a little notoriety due to the novelty deck in which Base Set Mewtwo is used with 59 Psychic Energy and stalls out for the entire game. However, another one of Psychic's weaknesses is their overall low HP. The two main staples, Alakazam and Mr. Mime, are respectively a Stage 2 with 80 HP (who evolves from a Basic with a pitiful 30) and a Basic with 40 HP. Only one or two Psychics break the 80 HP mark; combined with the weird type properties, this lands the type here.
And we finally get to the bottom tier. Trying to decide which is better between Lightning and Fire was a very hard choice considering both are so bad, and in the end I have to declare them tied. However, Fire's defining characteristic in TCG GB (energy discarding) is decidedly less of a disadvantage than Lightning's. Also, on a case-by-case basis, the Fire cards are stronger than the Lightning ones. However, Lightning's recoil is usually the result of a bad coin flip, so which is really worse? Anyway, Fire represents only the Fire type from the main series, making it one of the smaller pools in TCG GB. Essentially all of the Fire cards are weak against Water and have no resistance.
The most notorious Fire card is the most famous Pokemon card ever: Base Charizard. Having 120 HP was a thing of the gods in TCG GB, and Charizard's attack, Fire Spin, could OHKO anything in the game except for Charizard, Chansey and Mr. Mime. Of course, this was all little kids needed to go **** over the card (it also didn't help that it was, y'know, Charizard on the card). TCG players have long-debated the actual usefulness of the Charizard card and the general consensus is that it is overrated because Fire Spin has such a harsh discard penalty. I am inclined to agree with this camp.
In fact, the discarding is widespread across the type, with Charmander, Charmeleon, Charizard, Ninetales, Arcanine (who alternatively hurts itself with recoil on its other attack), Base Magmar, Jungle Flareon and Fossil Moltres (who alternatively has a "if tails, this attack does nothing" move) all having a move that forces energy to be discarded. That leaves only Vulpix, Growlithe, the Ponyta family, Fossil Magmar, TCG GB Flareon and TCG GB Moltres (who has ONLY the "if tails, this attack does nothing" move!). This is supposed to counteract the damage inflicted by Fire Pokemon, which is among the highest of the game in raw form, but when you consider that the discarding will leave the Fire Pokemon incredibly vulnerable, whereas Rain Dance and Haymaker can run amok withOUT the penalties, the "high risk, high reward" aspect of the type loses its luster.
Lightning, which only represents the games' Electric type, is easily the smallest set of Pokemon. In fact, out of the eight Pokemon who appeared more than once in the first three TCG sets, five of them were Lightning Pokemon. In TCG GB, a few more Lightning cards were added in an attempt to round out the type some more. Unfortunately, even with all of the extra cards, Lightning has so many problems that it can't be anywhere but Bottom Tier.
The first problem with Lightning is that its Pokemon have low HP overall, just like Psychic. Base Zapdos and Fossil Raichu have 90, and that's the top of the bunch. Base Magneton and TCG GB Jolteon have 60, which is awful for a Stage 1, and most of the Basics are stuck at 40, with only fully-evolved Electabuzz clocking in at 70. The low HP problem on its own wouldn't necessarily sink the type (as it didn't for Psychic), but this problem is compounded because Lightning's main characteristic is recoil damage!!!
Base Pikachu and Base Electrode? Recoil. Same for Base Electabuzz, but at least he balances out it with extra power if you get heads. Base Raichu? Massive recoil. Base Magnemite and Magneton? Kamikaze attacks that kill the Pokemon and take out 10 on all of your Benched Pokemon too. Base Zapdos alternates between "discard all Energy to use this attack" and "If tails, this attack eats 1/3 of Zapdos' health." Like Fire, Lightning goes for the "high risk, high reward" thing, except that Fire's damage output is usually higher and the side effect isn't as bad (although it is much more likely to happen). And, as with Fire, why go for high risk at all when there are better options?
It also does not help Lightning that, unlike Fire, a subtype resists their attacks: Ground-derived Fighting in this case. Lightning cards are almost all weak against Fighting, and they have little to help overcome except for paralysis as a side effect from weak attacks. Here's a common situation: Fighting deck user starts out with Hitmonchan. Lightning deck user starts out with Pikachu (or Voltorb, or Magnemite). Hitmonchan demolishes said Lightning Pokemon in one turn, making it very easy to get a one-turn victory. There is not another type in this game that gets its ass destroyed as badly as Lightning does against Fighting. Combine that with the resistances to Lightning, low HP, high risk/low reward damage output and excessive recoil, and you have likely the worst type in TCG GB.