TCG Fakes Base Set Rebalanced (feat. Jungle and Fossil)

Yaginku

Aspiring Trainer
Member
Today’s post is plain and simple - we’ll cover three singular Pokemon, going from the least changed to the most changed.

Ferry Nice

When it comes to the Base Set - Fossil format, Lapras wasn’t too bad at all. It’s another one of these cards that are an unevolved Basic, meant to guide you through your early game, while having a bit of utility as the turns go by. The changes I’ve made are minimal - the attacks are the same, only the Confusion Ray got the much-needed double colorless cost, instead of double water.

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This Ain’t a Popularity Contest

Gengar is a card I’ve alluded to multiple times before. It’s the only Stage 2 in the format with two sets of cards evolving into it. I knew I wanted to keep Gengar’s ability to move your opponent’s counters and, in fact, I tried making it a little bit more explosive, to help with those turtling decks.

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Curse works generally in the same way - it’s usually going to move a single damage counter per turn. However, you’ve got the option to trigger it multiple times, provided you’ve got the acceleration to make it happen.
Dark Mind is just the Japanese name for Night Shade. The original featured some spread damage, and I wanted the rework to also “combo” with the ability. I like the fact that an attack called “Dark Mind” interacts with your hand, which you can see as “your mind”, since it’s only visible to you. By putting Gengar’s Energy into “your mind”, you increase its attack power exponentially, while getting the chance to accelerate it all over again.

The Magneton Effect


Magneton makes a second appearance, in its original form with another Self-Destruct attack. At this point I have realized that Magneton never actually had the ability to learn Self-Destruct in the games, and that’s the case even today. Magnetons just don’t blow up, even though the early TCG tried to pretend like it did, twice.

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Electric Pokemon are supposed to have “explosive” attacks, and Sudden Discharge is definitely one of them. It skims the edges of Self-Destruct, but asks your opponent to finish the job. I suspect this attack will make for a great Electric splash, if you need it.
 

Yaginku

Aspiring Trainer
Member
End of Fossil: Dawn of the Final Week

We’re nearing the end of the entire project, which already has been delayed in relation to my initial plans. We’ve only got 25 cards to go and I’ve got a good idea of what I want to do with all of them. If I want to finish before May, that’s five days, that’s five cards per day. No more excuses - we’re making it happen.

Rework of a Rework

Today, we’re not going to rework a card from Fossil. I mean, we will, but on our way we’ll also rework the rework I have made a while ago and that’s been hanging in my file for a while now. We’ll explore why that rework was bad and, hopefully, arrive at a more satisfying card.
For the longest time, Golbat was sitting in the backburner with an Ability that read: “Your attacks with “Leech” in their names do 10 more damage to the Defending Pokemon.”. I do not consider this ability a bad design - it’s readable and understandable, it’s relatively short and it works with many cards in the format in a logical fashion. That said, there are deeper problems with that Ability that need to be addressed.
The first is - there’s no precedent that I know of, for an effect that increases the attack’s damage per the attack’s name. There are effects that check the Pokemon’s name, or even if a Pokemon has an attack with a specific name, but they never refer to attacks and modify them by name. That, in itself, isn’t a big obstacle to overcome, but it casts doubt over the validity of the ability in the first place.
Second, it’s too complicated. Yes, I have said it’s quite easy to understand and play with, but mechanically it touches on subjects no other card in the format does, like referring to an attack by a portion of its name. The format’s level of complexity is also a theme that needs to be maintained, so going along with the previous notion of “simplifying” the format, it is too complicated.

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In essence, the Golbat’s ability was meant to increase the benefits of using “Leeching” attacks, by increasing the damage and, therefore, also increasing the returned health. While damage-increasing effects are already a staple of the format, I also don’t want them to be ubiquitous, so simplifying this ability was as easy as just removing that part. That leaves us with just the healing aspect, which we can extend to all Pokemon, also making the ability much more readable.

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Zubat is somewhat of a staple in Pokemon, as far as annoying nuisances go. I wanted Zubat to be a card that's playable by itself, with a strong early-game attack that makes your opponent feel like they're in the dreaded caves it appears in.

Just Chillin’

Slowpoke and Slowbro are both cards that, in their original state, were just… weird. That’s not entirely bad, as these two Pokemon are certainly special when it comes to their approach to battle. That said, weird abilities are one thing, but abilities that are either unhealthy or unplayable are another - and these two Pokemon pack both.

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I liked that Slowpoke had no damaging attacks, definitely fitting his easy-going nature. That said, both were in need of a remake, and for completely different reasons.
The original “Spacing Out” let you flip a coin to remove a single damage counter from Slowpoke - not very impressive. I’ve decided to go with the “dopey” theme, letting you trade cards on hand for healing. It’s still not great, but might be useful in a pinch.
On the complete opposite of the spectrum was “Scavenge”, an attack that let you return any Trainer card back into your hand. This is something we cannot allow, as recursion is always a big threat. Instead, the attack now reshuffles either an Energy or a Pokemon, which can prove useful. Also, we fixed the original misspelling of the artist’s name!

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Slowbro is a complete redesign, as his original ability was not only strange - literally, it was called “Strange Behavior” - but it also overlapped heavily with Alakazam’s ability. I didn’t find it healthy nor thematic, so I’ve dropped the idea completely.
Instead, Slowbro’s main attack is “Strong Headbutt”, which not only removes energy from Slowbro in exchange for impressive damage, but also “taints” your next few draws. Don’t worry, however, as Psyshock allows you to shuffle it all back. I feel like Slowbro remains delightfully “strange”, while also building on all aspects of its weirdness.

Hitmon: Absolution

Unlike Hitmonchan, Hitmonlee hasn’t seen as much play as his fist-using brother - probably because it lacked the ability to deal damage fast, and its attack costs were quite high.

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Perhaps making Hitmonlee “more like Hitmonchan” is a bit of a cheat, but I really didn’t want -Chan to be extremely simple, and then -Lee to feature additional text that tries to set it apart. Perception and theme aren’t far in importance behind gameplay, and these Pokemon should be equals. That’s why the tweak is minor - Hitmonlee’s iconic High Jump Kick gets a bit of extra damage with an avoidable drawback, but also less HP.
 

Yaginku

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Numbers don’t speak for themselves

Today’s Cloyster is definitely an example of a card that cannot be evaluated without proper playtesting. While it’s easy to come up with scenarios where a card would be bad or good, it’s very difficult to evaluate something as generic as “healing power in the format” without actually trying it out. This is basically the most typical way for broken gameplay elements to slip into any multiplayer game - not through malice or disregard, but pure difficulty of playtesting every single combination.

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Cloyster’s ability is very similar to that of Mr. Mime, but taken to a whole new level - and I can actually see why it’s used very rarely, and never in this capacity. That said, just because it’s easy to screw up, we have the advantage of fixing the format afterwards, so let’s try it anyway.
Why is Sturdy Shell so dangerous? Healing. While, at first glance, it might read “you need to hit Cloyster at least twice”, it actually means “if your opponent heals Cloyster back to over 50 health, you cannot knock it out”. There’s quite a lot of healing available in the format, which works in Cloyster’s favor, but also a lot of mechanics meant to discourage single-Pokemon use, like Special Conditions. I’m quite excited to see what becomes of Cloyster.

Out of Poison puns

Even when you think you’re done with all the Poison Pokemon, they keep coming back. The pair of Tentacool and Tentacruel are actually the last Poison Pokemon on file (including secondary types), but who said a Poison deck can’t have a Water attacker as well?

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Tentacruel’s attack slickly includes Water’s identification of “more is better”. Meanwhile, Tentacool was actually simplified - Fossil tried to be cute by complicating many cards, even Basics, but I wanted to keep it straightforward.

Actually great

Energy Search is just a great card all around. It’s essentially any basic Energy card, but also filters your deck, lowering its overall randomness. Enabling multi-Type strategies is exactly what we want, and since Rainbow Energy isn’t yet available, it's the best we have.

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Yaginku

Aspiring Trainer
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So, uh, hi. I guess the anxiety got the better of me and I never did finish this set after all. There are many reasons for that other than pure laziness and perhaps I'll touch on them in the few future posts that I have left - but the truly baffling part is that I have actually finished all but a single card, I just haven't posted them. I had this idea that I want to post all the cards at once and finish the set - well instead, I'll take it slow and post what I have. And thank you @Weobi for your warm comments!

Giga Counter

What I am somewhat afraid of is the overabundance of passive Ability Pokemon that can stack very well, such as Wartortle or Golbat. If they turn out to be too oppressive, then I will definitely scale them down, however I don’t think the existence of such a strategy is bad in itself. That said, to keep generic strategies in check, there must be a Pokemon that puts pressure on decks going for it, which is where Raichu comes in.

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Given the description above, the attack is pretty self-explanatory - I hope the accessible cost makes it an easy splash if Ability decks become too unruly.

Geofamily

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Geodude features a classic attack, so I gave it a cost we now think of as reasonable. Other than that, the card remains largely unchanged.

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With Graveler and Golem, the first issue I saw was the inclusion - yet again - of Self-Destruct, this time on Golem. Putting Self-Destruct on a Stage 2 Pokemon feels quite dumb to me, you’re not really interested in investing so many resources into a Pokemon that you’ll just blow up afterwards, even for a 100 damage. Instead, I decided to move Self-Destruct to Graveler - most people would associate it with Graveler anyway, as it’s a pretty annoying wild encounter in a few of the games. This also makes Graveler into an evolution card with a decision - blow it up for good damage, or keep them for an evolution.
Golem, on the other hand, got a strong attack in the form of Avalanche, capable of dealing even 120 damage, though its regular target is around 60-70.
 

Yaginku

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Part of the reason it was so hard to finish this set (and the format) was the doubts I had about the identification of the whole thing. I mentioned this before, but I don’t think I really gave a definitive answer. Is this format’s goal a recreation of the “Base Set” style of gameplay, but improved for balance? Is it a rewriting of the game’s base mechanic in order to create a new experience? Is it an attempt at creating a “perfect set”, featuring all the basic card mechanics working in unison? Or was I attempting all of these things at the same time?
For a start, it's definitely clear that I'm not trying to recreate Base Set's blistering pace and broken gameplay. That said, I am still basing all cards on cards that actually existed. Granted, many of them are changed heavily or even completely reworked, but the limitation still exists.
On the topic of new experiences and "flaunting my creativity", there's definitely a bit of that going on, and perhaps too much of it for my liking. On one hand, I am trying to make every card satisfactory, especially keeping in mind the fans of every Kanto Pokemon. On the other I want to maintain some semblance of simplicity, which overly complicated mechanics don't adhere to.
When it comes to creating “the perfect format”, I am very much inspired by chess and how that game - albeit not “perfect” - doesn’t need drastic rule changes to remain competitive. If the goal of this format isn't to recreate the feeling of playing the original Base Set, then its identification should be "basic gameplay", a selection of cards that we want to see in a "typical" format, balanced as perfectly as possible.

Taking all of this into account, there are some things I would definitely do differently now. There is an obvious dichotomy between “trying to keep things basic” and “trying to make every card playable and interesting”. There is a bunch of “basic mechanics” that aren’t yet present - and in fact, I have changed the following two cards in production, to make sure I can include these two mechanics which I’ve actually talked about a while ago in my article.

Water Lads

Both of the families of Pokemon I’m about to present are two-stage, Water Pokemon with a similar design that addressed their original issue - they were simply boring and not on-par with other Pokemon. Now they both feature two sides of the same coin - targeting decks that overwhelmingly focus on either Evolution Pokemon or Basic Pokemon. In an ideal scenario I wouldn’t put these on Water Pokemon, but that’s what I’ve got left at the moment.

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I felt like some more interaction with Special Conditions was needed, so I gave Horsea yet another option to remove them.
In the case of Seadra, its first attack is yet another one that’s supposed to punish either stall or bench-sitters, by targeting Pokemon that your opponent isn’t willing to attach energy to. The second attack is a take on the classic “Evolution Shield”, meant to force your opponent to branch out their attacker choices.

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Krabby is just a minor improvement, with more rounded-out attacks and good set-up potential.
For Kingler, it’s always tough when a Pokemon’s “signature attack” simply deals damage in the games, with no special effects - but because I’m “doing a thing here”, Crabhammer is the opposite of Seadra’s “Outspeed” - an attack meant to dunk on Basic Pokemon with dangerous efficiency.
 

Yaginku

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Pokemon Fuji Lady

Today I’m posting the last Supporter of the format, which comes with more caveats than just those related to reworking the card. Running out of Supporter slots means just that - no more Supporters. Which brings the question: have I forgotten any effects that are necessary for this format? Is everything being kept in check, is everything allowed to thrive? It is that false idea that somehow writing the words on the card is now “final”. In reality, of course, it is not - nothing is final without testing, no decision is made without playing with it for a good amount of time. Every card can be remade into something different.

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The original Mr. Fuji worked as a possibly less oppressive version of Scoop Up, allowing you to shuffle a Pokemon and all attached cards back to your deck. This still, however, features all the issues of Scoop Up that I’ve outlined before, so I couldn’t allow this card to exist. I’ve toyed with many ideas for Mr. Fuji, but ultimately decided to keep it simple, by just making this card into a Pokemon Center Lady.
 

Yaginku

Aspiring Trainer
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Gambling is Banned

Gambler is a real doozy of a card. Its intent is clear and it was clearly meant to be more humorous than playable, but the wild effect paired with an art composed of a stock photo of dice just makes this look like a fake card.

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Gamble - yes, I renamed it to the action, given the naming conventions regarding Supporters - is much more tamed and perhaps playable in a coin-flipping deck.
What’s more interesting is the choice of the art. I tried looking for some sort of official gambling-related art, to no avail - no surprise, honestly, as it’s not really a topic you want to advertise. What DID exist were official cards for “Arcade Game” and “Card-Flipping Game” from Neo Genesis. They reference the Goldenrod corner (instead of the Celadon one), but equally importantly they have different art variants for the Western market, removing the casino-like artwork. So while this artwork is technically from a different card, it’s not an artwork that appeared on an English-language card. I decided to nick it - a controversial move to be sure, but it’s honestly the best art available, especially compared to “stock dice”.
As far as I am aware there is no scan of the Japanese-language Arcade Game card, so I had to crop the highest-quality photo I found and stitch it to the frame. It did feel kind of stupid for a card that’s somewhat of a joke, but I believe it came out looking much better.

Recycle

Recycle used to return any card from your Discard pile - and we definitely cannot let it do that. To prevent Trainer recursion, it has been limited to Pokemon and Energy cards. Other than that, it's a perfectly serviceable card.

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Ditto

Ditto is extremely hard to evaluate. It seems like Ditto had an active niche in the Base Set meta, but I couldn’t really put my finger on it. I can see how Ditto is pretty great at taking something your opponent has heavily invested in, and getting that basically for free. It’s also a Pokemon with probably the most “rules explanations” out there, concerning its weird Ability. I did not want to change Ditto too much - Ditto is actually quite rarely represented in the TCG, probably because of how unique their ability is.

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I decided to make Ditto a bit more understandable, by changing its Ability to an attack. While this does mean it needs a whole turn to transform - and there is no longer a clause that lets it use any type of energy - if you copy an opponent’s Blastoise, it will remain a Blastoise until removed from the Active spot. It would probably need more support to become truly playable, but I think that, at least in this form, it’s quite neatly presented.
 

Yaginku

Aspiring Trainer
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This is actually it - the end of the line, the last three cards in the entire format. The Legendary Birds themselves, all from Fossil, they’re the last cards standing between me and having this thing done. Obviously, as I’ve mentioned many times, I intend to balance this set out, spend time tweaking, and that might result in smaller or, indeed, bigger changes. But just putting a close on this format I take as an achievement. If you’ve read even one of these overdrawn posts I want to thank you - I hope it entertained you, or perhaps made you share my vision. If anyone besides me genuinely goes through the trouble of playtasting this format, it should be obvious I want to hear your feedback. Before we get there, though, we need to finish this once and for all, with these three cards.

Zapdos

Straight from the beginning, I was thrown into a woozie. The Fossil expansion features all three of The Birds, but Zapdos actually got another card all the way back in the Base Set. That means any kind of thematic connection flies right out of the window, because we have two Zapdos cards that would either ruin the connection, or make it unbalanced. I toyed with the idea of replacing Base Set Zapdos with a different Electric Pokemon - after all, it’s understandable that with such a small selection they not only repeated Zapdos, but Pikachu, Raichu AND Magneton as well. But Magmar got a second card while Electabuzz did not, and these are clearly connected thematically, so… for now, I will leave the cards as they are and work with a second Zapdos, though this kind of “missed opportunity” does annoy me somewhat.

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The fact that this Zapdos hits the bench shouldn’t be surprising - its “signature” attack allows it to attack anything, anywhere, for relatively respectable damage. I reconsidered my opinion on smashing high retreats on Legendaries - these are Birds after all, all relatively fast and elusive. No retreat cost fits them much better, and makes them better at openings.

Articuno

Articuno features two elements I wanted to get more recognition anyway - one is Supporter-related mechanics, and another is simply Paralysis.

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Paralyzing Benched Pokemon is sometimes more interesting than Paralyzing the front one - it blocks your opponent from using that select Pokemon to counter you. I had to put this mechanic behind a bunch of coinflips, but it still might prove to be extremely strong with Water acceleration - we’ll see how it goes.

Moltres

The original Moltres was one of the only cards - if not the only one - that has an attack specifically geared towards milling your opponent, that is reducing their deck size to zero. I thought long and hard on whether to let that mechanic stay, but I ultimately decided against it. I believe mill can exist if designed well, but a single card has no chance of being a healthy mill engine.
I do not often see a mechanic that allows you to choose to take more damage next turn - even though they do appear from time to time. Well, Moltres is one of these “from time to time” moments, and the whole package is a hit-and-run machine.

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Allowing Moltres to attack repeatedly is hard, but not impossible with a bunch of Base Set Charmeleons. While I dislike “Scoop Up” effects, they can certainly appear in controlled environments - and a Pokemon’s attack is definitely one of them.

What’s Next?

Now that all of the cards have been made, I consider this a “0.9 version”. So what happens now?

Version 1.0 - high-res images of all cards

You might have noticed that mid-way I switched resolutions from a lower to a higher one. At first I found it a necessity with cards that had too much wording and were almost impossible to read at the default resolution that MSE outputs. After a while I decided to just run every card through this pipeline, outputting an empty frame and putting an image on top, separately. Now it feels kind of necessary to do it to all previous cards that are still in horrible quality.
Once that’s done, I want to create “print sheets” for all cards, as well as a promotional image, basically the same as the one I did for the Base Set alone, but with every card on it. This I would consider a “1.0 release”.

Testing and Lackey

I have a few friends who are ready to test this set with me, but obviously I want to give you the opportunity to do it as well. So, I want to have the format playable in Lackey. How that is going to happen, we’ll see.

Version 2.0

What I’d consider “version 2.0” would be a version of the format where I’m more-or-less happy with the overall gameplay of the cards. At this point I am sure there are exploits that haven’t been caught, cards that aren’t properly balanced, or even cards that shouldn’t exist at all. A “2.0” would not be perfect, but it would be something that can be called a refined version of the format.

Pokemon Trading Card Game for GB remake with RPG Maker

This is a long shot, but I considered this for a while - it’s great to test this format with other people, but obviously it’s much more marketable to play it against AIs in a structured game. I see this as entirely doable with the knowledge I have, but it’s obviously a massive undertaking. Obviously such engine wouldn't just benefit me, anyone could upload their custom cards and have AI play against them, even making their own GB-style games in RPG Maker. This is not a priority right now, but I think it's something worth getting excited for.
 

Charmaster:)

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Moltres

The original Moltres was one of the only cards - if not the only one - that has an attack specifically geared towards milling your opponent, that is reducing their deck size to zero. I thought long and hard on whether to let that mechanic stay, but I ultimately decided against it. I believe mill can exist if designed well, but a single card has no chance of being a healthy mill engine.
I do not often see a mechanic that allows you to choose to take more damage next turn - even though they do appear from time to time. Well, Moltres is one of these “from time to time” moments, and the whole package is a hit-and-run machine.

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Allowing Moltres to attack repeatedly is hard, but not impossible with a bunch of Base Set Charmeleons. While I dislike “Scoop Up” effects, they can certainly appear in controlled environments - and a Pokemon’s attack is definitely one of them.
I was sad to see that the mill effect was gone, but sadly I have to agree that Moltres is a rather weak mill engine. It's hard to make it work, since you have to keep constantly re-accelerating.
 

PMJ

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As was mentioned, classic mill is awful because there is no support for it. Wildfire Moltres is one of my favorite classic era cards and it's a shame that it's so bad.

I haven't looked at all the revised cards, but I would have rather seen Moltres's unique gimmick left intact and some other cards changed to support it.
 

Yaginku

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@Charmaster:) @PMJ

I am not entirely averse to mill in principle, but I think it needs a good think through - and there's probably a lot of elements that need to be included, which might take a bunch of space. There are some core issues with mill, mainly:

What is the fantasy? In principle, milling is an alternate winning condition that sidesteps the entire prize system. In a way that's already problematic, it can create very toxic interactions with cards that self-balance based on the amount of prizes left. Leaving that for a second though, what's the "lore" explanation for milling? It might seem trivial, or even unimportant, but I feel like it should be considered. I see "milling" as your Pokemon attacking the opposing Trainer directly, instead of fighting "the fair fight". That's a pretty dirty way of fighting, and the Pokemon/Trainer selection should embrace that.

What kind of gameplay exactly do we want to create playing against a mill deck, with a mill deck and even in mill deck mirror matches? The issue here is that mill is often completely non-interactable and purposefully disregards everything that's going on. There are some mechanics that naturally use other game elements to self-balance and create interactions. An easy example would be hand-size related stuff, such as "if your opponent has less than 4 cards in their hand, do X" - the existing draw and discard features allow this mechanic to create gameplay with different cards and mechanics. "Milling" has very limited interactions, usually with cards that work from the discard pile and reshuffling cards, and these aren't very exciting or even common interactions to begin with.
A possible fix is to "hook" milling to a different, more fun interaction and have the mill part as just the consequence of that minigame. There are some good candidates for that. Something like "your opponent mills an amount of cards equal to the amount of cards in their hand" allows the mechanic to "hook" to an interaction that's more involved and confrontational.

Another consideration is - which Types should be allowed to mill? In this example it's Moltres, but does milling really fit the explosive and aggressive nature of Fire? Milling is a much slower, passive way of fighting (at least in a traditional sense - some form of redesign can change that). Following these themes leads us to types like Green, which promote slowness, or Psychic, which likes "weird interactions". If we were to consider Gen 2 Types, then Darkness would be a pretty great fit here. That said, if we took the example from the previous paragraph, that'd be pretty Fire-like, punishing players for stacking cards and playing passively. Can you see how I'm talking myself into including that attack on the Moltres card as I'm writing this post?

But the final consideration is - deckbuilding. If I put in five cards which obviously work together in a mill deck, then I'm screaming to the players that they should BUILD A MILL DECK WITH THESE. These kinds of "autobuild decks" don't excite me when it comes to set design. Hooking the mill to a more useful and universal mechanic would make it combo with cards that are used by other decks as well. But this comes back to the issue of space - can I have enough space to make mill a possibility. Perhaps, but that's to be seen after testing.
 

PMJ

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The idea of mill exists outside the "lore" of Pokemon requiring six Knock Outs to claim victory. It exists solely as a natural result of having running your opponent out of cards being a valid win condition and you shouldn't attempt to make it fit in any other way because that's the only way it does.

Saying that playing against mill isn't interactable and disregards everything that's going on is flat out wrong. If a lock is involved, setting up and maintaining the lock requires constant adaptation; things might get boring once your opponent is stuck, but getting to that point is where the fun lies for mill players.

Also, if there's one thing I've learned in my years of designing cards, it's that you shouldn't ever just assume people are gonna do what you think they will with your cards. You can give them obvious combos all day long (not that there's anything wrong with that), but people will find strategies you never thought of.
 

All-Stars_Creator

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Congratulations on finishing the set! I would love to be a part of the play-testers on Lackey. I'm also curious how you are going to implement your set into Lackey, as I have also created my own custom set and would like to do the same. Could you perhaps DM me? Maybe we can help each other out?
 

Yaginku

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The idea of mill exists outside the "lore" of Pokemon requiring six Knock Outs to claim victory. It exists solely as a natural result of having running your opponent out of cards being a valid win condition and you shouldn't attempt to make it fit in any other way because that's the only way it does.
The idea of a "deck out" exists as a consequence of lifting mechanics from MTG. In that game, it is thematically encapsulated in the concept of "going insane", as each player's decks is considered to be "their mind".
Theming is important - it is not required, but it drastically improves how mechanics resonate with players. Not only does it help in identification, but it can even help guide players on how to build their decks - the way Magic's mill is themed subtly suggests that utilizing it requires playing "the long game".

Saying that playing against mill isn't interactable and disregards everything that's going on is flat out wrong. If a lock is involved, setting up and maintaining the lock requires constant adaptation; things might get boring once your opponent is stuck, but getting to that point is where the fun lies for mill players.
Games should usually be fun for both players, not just the one that's playing a specific deck. Most stall decks are gimmick decks - an ideal game would have both player's strategies being equally respected, with each trying to capitalize on theirs while preventing the other's, but gimmick decks steal all the attention on the board, because you either beat the gimmick or lose to it. This isn't even a question of mill - mill is just a mechanic, it's just usually coupled with locks/stall, because that's the only efficient way of preventing a loss of prizes.
By definition, a lock tries to stop one of the players from playing the game. I really can't see that argument as anything but "stall cope", if your stall is so bad that your opponent can wriggle out of it, then it's not really a good deck - but if it is, then it's not really interactive. Most stalls that I've seen rely on your opponent not having sufficient tools to combat it - Lillie's Doll comes to mind here. I've mentioned in this thread, that there are some "stall elements" that are good, and you can get all of these great aspects without having lock decks in your format.
Mill has a completely different problem, and that's a lack of interactions with its win condition. If you're trying to win on prizes then, well, there's an entire game dedicated to it - weaknesses, resistances, health maintenance, etc. With mill, all of that is skipped and the player's deck is attacked instead. In the case of the original Moltres card, there are no "buts" to that argument, it's literally just pure mill, with nearly zero interactivity. That why I've mentioned "hooking" the mechanic to something else that gets more support from other cards/mechanics.
Also, if there's one thing I've learned in my years of designing cards, it's that you shouldn't ever just assume people are gonna do what you think they will with your cards. You can give them obvious combos all day long (not that there's anything wrong with that), but people will find strategies you never thought of.
That is definitely true, I just don't like mechanics/cards that, on one hand, scream "put me together in one deck" and, on the other, have zero deckbuilding potential outside of that interaction. Players do need suggestions on how to build decks, but it can be much more subtle than "Whenever you play a Cake card, draw a card. All Cake cards get +10 HP".
 

Yaginku

Aspiring Trainer
Member
I wish I could already start printing, sleeving and playing these cards, but there is one thing that’s been bothering me for quite a while now. I’ve been delaying my tackling of it further and further, mostly to get a better idea of what I want to do with these cards - but there is no use delaying it any more. What I’m talking about are Ability/Power Pokemon.

These Pesky Pokemon Powers

The baseline for energy acceleration is basic Dratini - 1 Energy cost attack, one free attachment. It isn't really "free" though, since you need to attach an energy to Dratini as well. Either you find a way to swap it, evolve it to attack and actually use that energy, or use it twice in a row to really get the benefit. Now, compare that to Wartortle and Charmeleon.
Wartortle’s Rain Dance is extremely weak when compared to Blastoise original, classic Rain Dance. Hell, it’s an ability that’s worse than many of the acceleration cards we have today. However, when Naganadel When a format is first introduced, players flock towards acceleration cards, since they’re very clear signifiers of what’s “supported”. If I design Water cards (and Fire, given the Charmeleon’s similar ability) with increased acceleration in mind, then they’ll simply need to be weaker and/or more costly than other card’s attacks. I've even downsized most attack costs to accommodate less acceleration - with too much acceleration it runs the risk of overriding energy costs completely. So, what options do we have?

For a start, it seems pretty obvious that these types of “general abilities” stack pretty well. While we might be used to seeing that, I really started to wonder if this is ideal - do we really want to see players running four of the same Pokemon on the bench, essentially limiting their strategic options? Shouldn't players be encouraged to diversify their bench selection? Instead of running four Wartortles and evolving into Blastoise when needed, I want players to have a diverse bench with many plans to choose from. I already have abilities that don’t stack in the form of Eeveelution boosts, so if I add the same clause to Wartortle and Charmeleon I am dangerously approaching a situation where these types of limited abilities are more common than stackable abilities. And for a good reason - limiting the “stackability” of these Pokemon Powers expands the design space, because it lets you create more powerful effects without running the risk of them getting out of hand in multiples.

So, if that’s so good, why not make it a rule? Well, while this sounds fine at first, there are many different types of Powers/Abilities and it’s very difficult to make a general, consistent rule. While limiting Abilities that say “Once a turn” is easy, there are abilities that can “apply”, there are abilities that can “trigger” and there are abilities that are completely passive - and for each of these the rules have to be different. In an ideal world, the rules would state that any Ability with the same name can only be applied/activated/triggered once at the same time. For instance, an ability that reads “Whenever you attach an Energy from your hand to this Pokemon, do X” could trigger multiple times during your turn on different Pokemon, but “Whenever you draw a card, do X” would only trigger once every time you draw a card, no matter how many Pokemon with this ability you have. This does sound challenging, but there is a trick to use here.

The trick is to change the perception, not the rule. “Once during your turn, do X” doesn’t actually imply that a second instance of that Ability can trigger separately. After all, the second instance doesn’t say “You can do it twice”, it can just as validly be interpreted that you can still only do “X” once per turn. Now, that’s not how most players - even beginners - interpret this text. Perhaps it’s just more fun to imagine these Abilities stack, or it’s Magic the Gathering rearing its ugly head with dozens of triggered and activated abilities creating impossible combos. But if you get this idea into your head, it actually starts being pretty comprehensible.

So the trick to this rule isn’t to change the existing text, but it’s interpretation. You have to treat it literally - “once” means “once”, and getting a second instance of “once” does not mean “twice”. In short, and as I’ve put it in the reminder text, “Multiple abilities with the same name do not multiply.” Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at updated Wartortle, Ivysaur and Charmeleon.

ASFWVAi.png
pOhIdLs.png
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Because their Pokemon Powers got an objective downgrade, I allowed both to ramp up any type of Energy, making them more flexible. Ivysaur remains largely the same, save for the updated reminder. I'm going for the school of including reminders on Common/Uncommon cards with abilities, but leaving them out on Rares, or if they're simply unwieldy.
 

fawfulmark2

Aspiring Trainer
Member
So HOPTs to tone down Bench stacking and promote deck diversity.

Fascinating, though I do wonder if the trend of F.O.O. strategies emerging from when the Rebalanced BJK enters the testing stage is inevitable. After all looking at the WotC guide for the Team Rocket set Wizards had a vastly different perspective of what they thought player Decks would look like compared to the actual results at the time.
 

Yaginku

Aspiring Trainer
Member
Did you start playtesting the rebalanced base set?
Yes! However, I couldn’t do it without writing down some of my experiences, which took a while to gather. But since you’re reading this post, I finally got around to it.

Base Set Remastered is now available on Lackey as a separate plugin!

Simply download this RAR file and unpack the included folder in your “/plugins” folder, in Lackey’s directory. It includes all the pictures and names for BSR cards.
The plugin has its quirks - the BSR cards are different sizes to all the others, meaning they extend beyond some of the frames and the energies look smaller on the battlefield. The card text isn’t entered, which means you can’t search for the cards by text while deckbuilding. However, the plugin is playable without many issues - and that’s what I cared about.

If you want to play, you can find me on Discord either in the Pokemon TCG Faking Community or directly under Yaginku#9314.

So, how is it?

Obviously my testing cannot be entirely conclusive, as I am just one person, making the decks that I think might be good. My first game ended with both players having zero cards in their decks, a single prize each and being a turn away from winning. That said, it also took me an hour to get to this position.

For starters, I quickly realized that damage is quite low compared to health pools. Dealing 30-40 is good, dealing 60 is very strong and dealing anything above that is amazing, but a lot of endgame Pokemon have 80-120 health. That means that OHKOs usually come from Weaknesses - which is good, but it also means it takes a lot more turns to take Prizes and actually finish the game.

The Trainer selection has both good and bad things about it. I haven’t yet made a deck that was 100% consistent and didn’t brick, but also none of these decks were entirely helpless - they simply couldn’t reliably get every single combo piece. I hope what becomes more clear after more testing, is whether the consistency needs to be improved or reduced - less consistency means that decks have to prepare for a meaty “middle-game” where they can’t get access to everything. It is entirely possible that heavy rule changes would be needed to make the game interesting at every stage, but the challenge here isn’t to make a new game, but to improve what already exists.
Decks very often run out of cards. Turns out, when you expect players to dig for cards instead of direct tutoring, they happen to dig up the entire thing quite fast. And when the games are slower, it gives the players a lot of time to dig. If you use eight Oaks in your deck and play one every turn, in eight turns you’ll dig 54 cards, AKA the entire deck.

One interesting thing I noticed was that - as was my goal - the deckbuilding has changed and I, myself, had problems sticking to rules I wanted to push. One big example is the idea of having non-evolving Basics serve as early-game brawlers, with high health pools allowing for a safe set-up with minimal energy investment. That's something that's almost unheard of today, but failing to play this way in Base Set Remastered can lead to having your 40HP Basic easily disposed of.

After playing with a couple of fun-oriented decks, I went and made two decks that I knew I needed to test - an extremely fast and aggressive deck, and an extremely defensive stall deck. Let's start with the latter.

Stall

After my first few games with "fun" decks, I have realized that there's actually quite a lot of healing effects in the format. This, paired with lowered damage output to prevent sweeps, made me think that stall might actually return in full force. Certain cards, such as Mr. Mime and Cloyster, which you cannot OHKO by design, were threatening to become literally unknockoutable if healed constantly. I've put together a deck with all of these tools, and here's my takeaway.
"Defensive" decks are certainly viable, but they're not as mindless as modern, real-life stall decks. For starters, there is absolutely zero way to loop Trainer cards, so there's no way to set up a boring loop that repeats until your opponent runs out of cards. Every stall card has an "out" for the attacking player, even if it's just a Weakness and low HP. Even if you manage to combine either Mr. Mime or Cloyster with enough healing effects, there's still a card that I now consider my favorite design in the set - Poke Flute.

The fantasy behind Poke Flute was exactly the one from the game - overcoming an annoying obstacle - and the card does it beautifully. By removing all effects and abilities from the defending Pokemon, you get to deal raw damage and stick it fully. That said, this is not the only option, as both status effects and Pokemon with Swift exist - in fact, I feel like the latter needs a small buff to be more accessible.

Wipe

On the other side of the spectrum are hyper-aggressive decks that simply focus on damage, rather than abusing gimmicks. My prime candidate for this deck was a combo of Charizard and Raichu - a Fire/Lightning deck that gets access to two Eeveelutions for boosted damage. There’s not much to say here other than - I struggled to make another deck that came even close to the raw power of Raichu. 50 for 2 on a Stage 1 doesn’t seem like a big deal, after all there are multiple Pokemon that can deal 60 or even 80 - but actually it’s a massive deal. On top of that, Raichu’s first attack is worded in a confusing way, where it’s not clear whether “using the attack for the first time since Raichu became active” counts when Pikachu evolves. It’s regular for a designer to just judge these interactions on the fly, and my judgment was that yes, evolving an active Pikachu allows Raichu to deal 50 without switching. However, this wording is probably going to be changed for a simple “if switched” version.

Rebalance Base Set Rebalanced?

Before I pull the trigger on any changes, I want to see more testing, even if it confirms what I’m already seeing. I wanted to include a list of changes I’m considering, but I’ll leave that to myself and make the changes I want to make, because I don’t want to influence people to play/not play certain cards. I already have some ideas, many of them I’m basically set 100% on, but again, it’s worth testing this version of the format before jumping straight to the next one.
 
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