Greetings to everyone! This is my first article submission for SixPrizes.com, I hope you enjoy it!
In real life, it’s important to make a good first impression with people you meet. Well, that same idea applies to Pokémon, and today I’m going to talk about Starters in the Pokémon TCG and how they can affect your game.
In researching the Modified format for cards that I thought would make good Starters, I found a surprising amount of interesting cards I hadn’t noticed before, or had written off as gimmicky at the time. I made note of them, their applications in decks, combos that would be usable, and so forth; and after weeding through a fairly extensive list of candidates I narrowed them down to ten.
Before we go any further, I’m going to explain the concept of a Starter Pokémon in case you’re new or haven’t ever really thought about the concept. A Starter is a card you ideally want to be your active Pokémon at the beginning of the game. For instance, in decks like Gyarados SF, it would be much more efficient to start with a Sableye SF instead of your Magikarp. Why? Because Magikarp has more unreliable attacks than Sableye, it has less HP meaning it’s far more likely to get donked, and Sableye has a very useful Poké-Body.
Some evolution decks have a Basic Pokémon that isn’t particularly useful early game and is there strictly just to evolve into its stronger form. In this case, why not take advantage of a Starter that can disrupt your opponent or help your setup instead of merely attaching an Energy to your active and at best doing 10 or 20 damage, and at worst being forced to pass and possibly lose that Energy investment anyway? While not every deck needs a Starter Pokémon, many decks can benefit from an effective early lead.
That said, here is my list of the top ten Starters for the current Modified format (DP-HGSS). These are in no particular order, as they all have differing functions; it would be unfair to state that one is superior to another.
This is such a highly underrated card! For just one W Energy, Lapras can use “Carry In”. It allows you to search your deck for a Pokémon Tool, Supporter, and Basic Energy and put them into your hand.
The specific Energy requirement is mildly inconvenient, and if it were Colorless I’m sure it would see far more play. Still, in a deck that uses W Energy (such as the new “Rain Dance” Feraligatr HGSS), you may find that Lapras is the right Pokémon for the job especially if you’re stuck going first and don’t have the luxury of playing a Supporter, Stadium, or Trainer card.
Lapras’ 80 HP is also good for a non-SP Basic Pokémon, making it a decent sponge to hide behind while you start building up your Benched Pokémon.
Pachirisu has fallen off slightly in use, but is still an effective lead. To note, it only uses one C Energy for either of its attacks, both of which are effective and both of which are very useful.
“Call for Family” allows you to search your deck for up to three Basic Pokémon and put them onto your bench, which is highly useful as even Call Energy can only get two Basic Pokémon. This may also let you save your Supporter use for something more critical, allowing you to get that crucial T2 Claydol out on the next turn.
“Smash Short” is also a good attack, and is an excellent anti-SP attack as it allows you to discard their critical Energy Gain as well as letting you look at their hand and potentially discard any they might have in their hand. This can also let you get rid of other useful tool cards such as the ever popular Expert Belt.
#3 – Spiritomb (#32, Arceus)
What Starter list would be complete without Spiritomb? It has been covered before on 6P so I won’t be going into too much detail; what’s important to know is it has found its way into an assortment of decks as a highly versatile and useful tech.
“Keystone Seal” being able to stop Trainer cards cold is a massive advantage for a deck designed to run on a Poké-Power or Supporter engine. It can cripple many opponents that rely on Trainer cards such as the popular new Pokémon Communication, which has started replacing Bebe’s Search. You can also use it to stop the opponent from Power Spraying important Poké-Powers, as they cannot play Trainer cards while Spiritomb is active.
In addition, “Darkness Grace” is excellent, as you can stall with Spiritomb and build up Pokémon on your bench, attaching crucial Energy cards to them and making sure they’re ready as soon as Spiritomb falls.
#4 – Ambipom G (#56, Rising Rivals)
With the re-introduction of Double Colorless Energy to the Modified format, many cards that were once too slow to run effectively have suddenly leapt back into the spotlight. Ambipom G is one such card, and after seeing its effects first-hand, I’d be remiss to exclude it from this article. Like Spiritomb, Ambipom G was recently covered on 6P, so again, I won’t go into too much detail, but I do feel there are two very important things to note about it.
“Tail Code” recently had a ruling in regard to Unown G’s “GUARD” Poké-Power. The ruling states that while Unown G is attached to a Pokémon as a Tool, it prevents effects of attacks done to that Pokémon; thus you can move an Energy with “Tail Code” to something that has an Unown G attached, and the Unown G forces that Energy card to be discarded. This is invaluable for slowing your opponent down by discarding crucial Special Energies such as Double Colorless Energy, Multi Energy, Special M Energy, and so on.
“Snap Attack” is also equally important to mention. With Double Colorless Energy in play again, Ambipom G has donk potential; simply attach a DCE and “Snap Attack” does 60 damage if the Defending Pokémon has no Energy attached to it. Highly effective against finishing off a weak Basic before it even has the chance to attack. As mentioned before, it’s also great as a Garchomp C counter, allowing you to 1HKO it after it has discarded its Energies to attack.
#5 – Mr. Mime (#30, Mysterious Treasures)
“Airy Wall” prevents all damage done to Mr. Mime by the opponent’s Pokémon that has less than three Energy cards attached to it. If Mr. Mime was evolved from Mime Jr., effects are also prevented, effectively working as a temporary Unown G. While Mime Jr. isn’t as effective as Unown G is, it does give Mr. Mime the benefit of being an Evolved Pokémon, useful if using it as a tech in Flygon, as well as allowing you to hold off a Machamp that would have used “Take Out” to immediately knock Mr. Mime out. It also allows you to save that Unown G for something else that can use it more effectively.
While Mr. Mime isn’t a very powerful attacker, and it’s a somewhat unusual choice for a Starter, I felt it was worth mentioning in this article as it becomes more or less dead weight late-game when your opponent has attached multiple Energy cards to their Pokémon, thus making it more effective early game.
Sableye is one of the most well-rounded and efficient Starter Pokémon in the Modified format and for good reason; it’s exceptionally versatile.
Its “Overeager” Poké-Body allows you to go first at the beginning of the game, which only works as long as your opponent doesn’t also start with an identical Sableye. This combos well with “Impersonate”, which is a free attack allowing you to search your deck for a Supporter, discard it, and use its effect as the effect of your attack.
The practical applications for this are many, as you effectively get to use any Supporter in your deck on your first turn. Granted, you can’t play whatever you decided to get with your Supporter (for instance, you can’t “Impersonate” a Pokémon Collector and then play your Basic Pokémon you got with it) but it saves you from having to use that Supporter next turn, allowing you to use a different one instead.
“Overconfident” is also an exceptionally good attack for just one D Energy. If you run up against a Pokémon with 50 HP or less (and with the increasing popularity of Pichu HGSS in decks, you’ll find this happens quite often), “Overconfident” does 40 damage instead of 10. Combine this with a Special D Energy and you’re guaranteed a knockout on anything with 50 or less HP, as there is currently no card in the Modified Format that resists the Darkness type.
#7 – Chatot (#55, Majestic Dawn)
“Mimic” is a free attack allowing you to shuffle your hand into your deck and then draw a number of cards equal to the number of cards in your opponent’s hand. If you’re burdened with a bad starting hand, or you find later in the game that you just need to refresh your hand if you’re getting garbage draws, Chatot is highly effective.
“Chatter” is also noteworthy as it can be used to lock an opponent’s Spiritomb or Sableye in place for multiple turns. This is particularly effective against Spiritomb, as it cannot play a Warp Point or Switch card to retreat due to its own body preventing Trainers from being played, forcing it to rely on a Warp Energy or Unown G to allow it to safely retreat.
In addition to all of this, Chatot has free retreat which is a nice bonus as it allows you to retreat it to the bench later after using it.
Jirachi’s “Final Wish” Poké-Power enables you to search your deck for any one card and put it into your hand if it is Knocked Out by damage from an attack. Ideally, your safest bet would be to attach an Unown G to Jirachi to prevent effects (such as Gengar SF’s “Shadow Room” or Machamp SF’s “Take Out”) from Knocking it Out, thus enabling its useful Poké-Power to work.
“Detour” is an interesting and unusual attack. It requires no Energy to use, and if you played a Supporter during your turn, you can use its effect again as the effect of the attack. This would perhaps be best used on something like Cyrus’s Conspiracy, allowing you to pick up multiple Team Galactic’s Invention cards when normally you may have been torn between Power Spray, Poké Turn, or Energy Gain.
Jirachi is a less effective lead as a Starter compared to Sableye as it is more effective to go second rather than to go first with Jirachi (due to “Detour” requiring you to have played a Supporter). Honestly, its major selling point is “Final Wish”.
However, if used properly, Jirachi can change the tide of battle favorably for you.
#9 – Pichu (#28, HeartGold & SoulSilver)
We mentioned Pachirisu before as an early-game option to let you place three Pokémon on your bench. However, it just wouldn’t be fair to not mention the adorable Pichu from HeartGold & SoulSilver, which splashes extremely well in so many decks with its “Playground” attack.
“Playground” allows both players to search their decks for as many Basic Pokémon as they might like and fill their bench with them– for free. In so doing, Pichu becomes Asleep (more on this in a moment). In decks that do more damage for each Pokémon on the bench such as Jumpluff and Charizard, this is a very effective and efficient way to maximize damage. In the case of Jumpluff, in addition to loading your bench with Basics, this also presents your opponent with a dilemma: either load their bench with Basics and thus maximize the inevitable “Mass Attack”‘s damage from Jumpluff, or choose to not do so in an attempt to soften the blow and thus have less Pokémon to work with as a result.
As a bonus, “Sweet Sleeping Face” (Pichu’s Poké-Body) prevents all damage done to Pichu while it is Asleep. Pichu also has free retreat, which is another asset as if it does avoid the initial barrage, you can just retreat it out to the bench later and start attacking with your other Pokémon.
Surprise! You thought it’d be another Basic Pokémon, didn’t you!
Furret here is actually a Stage 1, which requires the Basic Sentret card in order to be effective. With Broken Time-Space being a deck staple, however, I feel like Furret may still have some time left to shine.
“Keen Eye” is a free attack that is essentially a double Poké Drawer+. You are allowed to search your deck for any two cards you want and put them into your hand. The benefit here is your opponent has no idea what they are.
And if that’s not cool enough, “Baton Pass” is great as you can attach a Double Colorless Energy to Furret and immediately switch it with something stronger once Furret’s done its job, passing the Energies along the way to your attacker.
To that end, if using the Secret Wonders/POP Sentret, you might find that its “Grope” attack is decent, as for only one C energy you get a Pokédex-like effect.
Honorable Mention – Smeargle (#66, Secret Wonders)
At one time, Smeargle was a popular lead. “Color Pick” is a good method to get a lot of Basic Energy into your hand, and it was Colorless allowing it to function in any deck. So why hasn’t Smeargle been used recently?
Decks started focusing on minimum Energy requirements; cards like Kingdra, Machamp, Gengar, Charizard, Beedrill, and so on all use just one or two Energy for their main attacks. Something like Smeargle wouldn’t be very efficient in that sort of deck since the entire idea is to get a T1 or T2 attacker out and swinging, rather than building up Basic Energy in your hand, slowing you down.
Nonetheless, you may find Smeargle still has a use. Going back to “Rain Dance” Feraligatr, you could cut down on the amount of Roseanne’s Research necessary to run such a deck and instead opt to use Pokémon Collector for three Basic Pokémon instead of two. Then, you can attack with “Color Pick” and get a few Energies in your hand to attach to your Water Pokémon during your next turn.
“Trace” also deserves special mention; it is a complete gamble, but you may end up finding something on the opponent’s bench worth copying.
While Smeargle does have its benefits, its overall function has declined as it’s been replaced by more stable cards in the format, but nonetheless it still functions in decks that use large amounts of Energy.
Other Noteworthy Starters
Drifblim SF is noteworthy as a Stage 1 Starter in that it can search out two Basic Pokémon and attach Basic Energy to them.
Unown H GE, Unown V LA, and Unown Y LA can all be used as Starters.
Unown H’s “Hidden Power” does 30 damage for one P Energy, but forces you to discard one card from your hand. This could actually be a beneficial Starter as it has the ability to donk a good deal of the basics in HGSS, as well as the being useful to drop cards out of your hand (such as Magikarps in a Gyarados build, or Energies in a deck that retrieves them from the discard pile).
Unown V’s “Hidden Power” also does 30 damage for one P Energy, but deals 10 damage to each of your benched Pokémon. However, its Poké-Power “Vacation” can also remove two damage counters from each of your benched Pokémon at the expense of ending your turn.
Lastly, Unown Y’s “Hidden Power” can search your deck for up to two Trainer cards for two C Energy. This may be a useful tech if you run Double Colorless Energy in your deck and rely on a Trainer engine.
Delibird GE‘s “Present” attack allows you to search your deck for any one card and put it into your hand for free if you flip heads on a coin check.
Phione MD‘s “Evolution Wish” can be used to search your deck for a card that evolves from one of your Pokémon and allow you to evolve it for one C Energy.
Farfetch’d SF‘s “Go and Collect” lets you search your deck for any one Trainer, Supporter, or Stadium for one C energy.
Weavile G Pt and Honchkrow G Pt are fantastic Starters if you run an SP-based build. Weavile G lets you search out any two Pokémon SP for free and put them on your bench with its “Call for Family” attack. Honchkrow G’s “Honcho’s Command” attack lets you search your deck for two in any combination of Stadiums and Team Galactic’s Invention cards. Both also have useful attacks that combo well with other Pokémon SP.
Bronzong 4 RR and Cleffa HGSS are good for the purpose of refreshing your hand; Bronzong 4’s free attack “Hand Refresh” makes each player shuffle their hand into their deck, and then they draw four cards, making it good for disruption. Cleffa’s free attack “Eeeeeeek” allows you to shuffle your hand into your deck and draw six cards. Cleffa then becomes Asleep, and just like Pichu, its “Sweet Sleeping Face” Poké-Body prevents it from being damaged by attacks while it is Asleep.
Lickilicky C SV is one of the more unusual Starters. Its “Licking-Licking Heal” attack costs one C Energy, and it allows you to attach one Basic Energy from your hand to one of your Pokémon and then remove two damage counters from it.
Plusle SV‘s free attack “Greedy Draw” lets you draw cards until you have one more card in your hand than your opponent.
Rotom MD‘s free attack “Dual Trans” lets you search your discard pile for up to two Basic Energy cards and attach them to one of your Pokémon, which combos well with Felicity’s Drawing or Volkner’s Philosophy as an Energy accelerator.
I hope this article was helpful to you. Constructive criticism is always appreciated. Thanks for reading, and good luck!