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Top 6 Original Pokemon Cards (Base Set)

In between "Pokémon" journeys, Jeremy enjoys working as a pharmaceutical chemist and campus manager.

Pokemon's Base Set

Like many kids, I didn't even know how to play the Pokemon trading card game, I just enjoyed collecting and trading the cards. As an adult, I can better appreciate the strategic aspects of the game, and still love to scour through cards and find the best of the best.

What better arrangement to review than the original set? These cards established the trends that would prevail for years to come, from the energy-burning, but powerful Fire cards to the extra-energy boosts from Water. Read on to discover the six strongest original Pokemon trading cards!

Best Original Pokemon Cards

6. Arcanine
5. Blastoise
4. Nidoking
3. Machamp
2. Charizard
1. Gyarados

Base Set Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Tangela has how much HP?
    • 40
    • 50
    • 60
    • 70
  2. Mewtwo was weak to..
    • Psychic
    • Grass
    • Electric
    • Fighting
  3. Porygon's attacks don't deal damage.
    • True
    • False
  4. Venusaur's Poke-Power is called..
    • Solar Power
    • Energy Trans
    • Nutrient Absorption
    • Ivy Wall
  5. Which card is not in this set?
    • Raichu
    • Onix
    • Raticate
    • Gengar

Answer Key

  1. 50
  2. Psychic
  3. True
  4. Energy Trans
  5. Gengar

Interpreting Your Score

If you got between 0 and 1 correct answer: Yikes.

If you got between 2 and 3 correct answers: Not too bad.

If you got 4 correct answers: Well done!

If you got 5 correct answers: Awesome, great job!

Evolution Stages

  • Basic Pokemon can be played from your hand as you like.
  • Stage 1 Pokemon are evolutions that must be played on a corresponding Basic Pokemon.
  • Stage 2 Pokemon are further evolutions to be played on corresponding Stage 1 Pokemon.
Arcanine base set

Arcanine base set

6. Arcanine

Stage 1/ Fire

Arcanine's attacks come with a price, but the immense strength offered more than compensates:

  • Flamethrower (3 Energy) Torches foes for 50 but requires you to discard an energy.
  • Take Down (4 Energy) 80 damage indeed takes down most foes in one blow, but forfeits 30 of Arcanine's own HP.

Capable of taking hits as well as landing them, Arcanine earned its place in many decks and only needed to evolve once to access its arsenal.

Blastoise base set

Blastoise base set

5. Blastoise

Stage 2/ Water

Blastoise also joins with a hefty 100 HP, as well as a stellar Poke-Power and attack:

  • Rain Dance (Poke-Power) Lets you transfer Water energy between your Pokemon as you like, perfect for powering up Blastoise's attack..
  • Hydro Pump (3 Energy) Blasts for 40, plus an extra 10 for each additional Water energy on Blastoise (up to a maximum of 60 damage).

Blastoise could rapidly bolster its own strength, or redistribute energy to fresh fighters if it was about to perish, supplementing many Water teams.

Nidoking base set

Nidoking base set

4. Nidoking

Stage 2/ Grass

Another Stage 2 titan, Nidoking carries a solid 90 HP as well as two useful moves:

  • Thrash (3 Energy) Flips a coin. Heads deals 40 damage, while tails lands 30 but inflicts 10 to Nidoking. Not incredible, but still a good way to finish off weakened Pokemon once you've used...
  • Toxic (3 Energy) Only nets 20 damage, but poisons your opponent, dealing 20 damage instead of the usual 10 each round!

Nidoking adeptly dispatched opponents by badly poisoning them, then quickly ending them with Thrash.

Machamp base set

Machamp base set

3. Machamp

Stage 2/ Fighting

Yet another Stage 2 Pokemon with 100 HP, Machamp has two simple but awesome traits:

  • Strikes Back (Poke-Power) Retaliates with 10 damage whenever Machamp is hurt, even if it's knocked out!
  • Seismic Toss (4 Energy) Demands four energy to use, but seizes an impressive 60 damage.

Between Seismic Toss and Strikes Back, Machamp decimated foes... as long as you could afford its expensive attack. Sadly, it bears no resistance and is weak to Psychic, slightly undermining an otherwise awesome card.

Charizard base set

Charizard base set

2. Charizard

Stage 2/ Fire

You knew he was coming. Perhaps the most famous Pokemon card of all time and final evolution to first Fire starter Charmander, Charizard brandished the highest HP and strongest attack of his age, plus a resistance to Fighting:

  • Energy Burn (Poke-Power) Turns all Energy on Charizard into Fire, useful for multi-type decks.
  • Fire Spin (4 Energy) Requires 4 Energy to use and burns through 2 of them, but incinerates for 100, vanquishing any opponent in one hit (except another Charizard).

As long as you could replenish his energy reserves, Charizard eradicated all opposition. Not bad a price to pay for such fearsome power.

Gyarados base set

Gyarados base set

1. Gyarados

Stage 1/ Water

Not as famous as Charizard, Gyarados still displays the HP and power of a Stage 2 champion, yet only needs to evolve once. It also shares Charizard's resistance to Fighting:

  • Dragon Rage (3 Energy) Simply scores a potent 50 damage.
  • Bubblebeam (4 Energy) Blasts foes for less hurt than Dragon Rage (40), and needs more energy, but has a 50% chance to paralyze opponents, forcing them to waste a turn.

A Pokemon that quickly evolves and unleashes fearsome attacks without spending energy or taking damage, Gyarados nets today's top rank.

More Original Pokemon Trading Cards

Hopefully today's list highlighted some awesome Pokemon and let old fans revisit classic cards. These guys may not match the strength of modern Pokemon cards, but we can still appreciate the legacy they left and the place they held in our hearts.

Feel free to vote for your favorite, and I'll see you at our countdown of the TCG's first expansion: the Jungle set!

Questions & Answers

Question: Do you think EX cards were bad for Pokémon TCG and do you think GX cards made up for it by bringing evolutions back into the spotlight?

Answer: Maybe a few sets were overpowered, but when properly balanced, I'm in favor of both EX and GX cards. Sometimes it seems EX dominates the spotlight, but they're available to just about any deck (so you can use them too). Additionally, some cards like Beautifly from the Roaring Skies set work as anti-EX measures; in this case, they're completely immune to damage from EX Pokemon!

After all, if a trading card game never innovates, fans often grow tired of the same old rote, and I'm glad EX and GX were introduced.

© 2017 Jeremy Gill