Charizard – Base Set
Date Reviewed: November 4, 2021
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
We take a break from Mewtwo V-Union to enjoy a Throwback Thursday pick covering the poster… er… card for the old school Pokémon TCG: Charizard (Base Set 4/102; Base Set 2 4/130; Legendary Collection 3/110)! This card was just reprinted as part of Celebrations, with the 25th Anniversary stamp on it. Other than that, and some formatting differences, it is the same as what released back in Base Set and Base Set 2. The Legendary Collection had the updated wording: Energy Burn is shut off by any Special Condition, not just Confusion, Paralysis, and/or Sleep (note that Poison was added via global ruling/erratum before the Legendary Collection released). Even if you never saw this Charizard, more than one Charizard has been an homage to this one, the first one.
How was its Fire-typing back in the day? So-so. For reasons we’ll get to, it wasn’t that useful for exploiting Weakness (most Grass types were OHKO’d before Weakness) and type support didn’t really exist back in the day. Charizard is a Stage 2 and this was… a problem. When Pokémon was brand-spanking-new in North America, a decent amount of us thought this was a good thing, but eventually we learned that Basics had the speed and reliability most decks needed. Some Evolutions were viable, but they had to be pretty great. Charizard has 120 HP, at the the time when this was the maximum printed HP score. In other words, it was great!
[W] Weakness was definitely bad; while Haymaker decks had a hard time exploiting it, Rain Dance decks did not. [F] Resistance was good. Let that sink in; a Pokémon with -30 Resistance at a time when 40 damage for three Energy was competitive, and when Fighting types were one of the best. That Reterat Cost of [CCC] did hurt Charizard. Not only was this decades before we had support specific to high Retreat Cost Pokémon (like Heavy Ball), but it meant you really needed Switch.
Charizard has a Pokémon Power and an attack. If you’re not familiar with the Pokémon Power mechanic, they’re Abilities before there were Abilities but they are mechanically distinct as far as the game goes e.g. effects that reference Abilities don’t do anything to Pokémon Powers and vice versa. Charizard’s Pokémon Power is “Energy Burn”, and it let you make all Energy attached to itself – Basic or Special – provide [R] Energy instead of your usual type. If it was an Energy card that provided multiple units of Energy – like Double Colorless Energy – each unit counted as [R]. So yeah, Double Colorless Energy could provide [RR] if you used Energy Burn.
You can even use Energy Burn multiple times in a turn, I guess in case you needed to use it before you were done attaching Energy to Charizard? As your turn ended, the Energy reverted back to its original typing, and like nearly all Pokémon Powers, it stopped working if Charizard was afflicted with Confusion, Paralysis, or Sleep (later any Special Condition). Of course, if you were Asleep or Paralyzed, it isn’t like you needed Energy Burn anyway.
Charizard’s one attack is “Fire Spin”. Priced at a massive [RRRR], it also required you discard two Energy cards attached to Charizard in order to use the attack. Then Charizard attacked your opponent’s Active, doing 100 damage. This was good – but not great – damage for the time. Even before other effects and Weakness, it wouldn’t OHKO everything, but it would OHKO most Pokémon based only on printed HP costs.
If I remember correctly, you had to discard the Energy before checking for something like Confusion, so it was possible to discard and get nothing against some annoying stall effects. Oh, and it is two Energy cards, not Energy, that must be discarded. While they can be of any type, if you discard something like a Double Colorless Energy, it is still only one Energy card. Yes, you could fuel Fire Spin with two Double Colorless Energy cards thanks to Charizard’s Energy Burn Pokémon Power, but you’d have to discard both of them. That made it very difficult (and costly) to attack with Charizard turn after turn.
Originally, Charizard only had Charmander (Base Set 46/102; Base Set 2 69/130; Legendary Collection 70/110) and Charmeleon (Base Set 24/102; Base Set 2 35/130; Legendary Collection 37/110). These aren’t good, but they do show some forethought by the designers. Namely, that both have two attacks, one running purely on [C] Energy and one that requires Fire Energy (and includes discarding a [R] Energy card). Energy Burn basically makes Chariard’s Fire Spin attack a Colorless move, so it is nice the entire line can attack using non-Fire Energy. Of course, the attacks in question aren’t worth risking your evolving Basic/Stage 1, but at least they apparently thought about it. You can also use Pokémon Breeder; the original versions of Pokémon Breeder work like the modern version of Rare Candy. Just so no one thinks I forgot them, there are some near reprints of Charmander and Charmeleon. As with Charizard itself, the newer versions might have slightly more HP or slightly less demanding attack.
Charizard isn’t Standard or Expanded legal, as this reprint does not have a regulation mark. So… how was it when it was? The first CotD we have for this Charizard is from January 11, 2002. That is three years after it originally released, and the fifth group Card of the Day review ever done. Fast forward to September 7, 2011 for our re-review of Charizard. Charizard was in very high demand back in the day but not because it was a good card. Charizard was (and is!) a popular Pokémon, so when the Pokémon fad was in full swing, a lot of kids wanted one. It is also important to know that it was hard obtaining cards even in North America during the fad phase, and there wasn’t any accumulated Poké-Wisdom about what did and didn’t work. In other words…
…Charizard was meh at best but people thought he was a strong card. If you went first, you needed to end your turn with two Charmander in play if you wanted at least one to survive to evolve on your next turn. If you went second, you might have to sacrifice two Charmander, or a Charmander and a Charmeleon just to get one Charizard up and running. It was also very difficult to fuel Charizard when it actually hit the field. The simplest approach would be attaching a Double Colorless Energy to a Charmander, then on your next turn, using Pokémon Breeder to evolve that Charmander directly to Charizard while attaching another Double Colorless Energy. Even when it worked, now your Charizard had no Energy. It rarely worked, though: a Charmander with a Double Colorless Energy was the obvious one to force Active with Gust of Wind and OHKO or your opponent would us an Enegy Removal or Super Energy Removal.
Players would eventually find ways to make Charizard functional, but it was never an easy thing. You can find mention of it in those older Card of the Days. I’m a little skeptical about some of them, as they seem to fall into the “You could use the same setup for something better” camp and/or the “What about all the natural counters to it?” camp. Which brings me back to how Charizard is just an example of poor card design… or perhaps intentionally poor card design because the powers-that-be didn’t really understand their own TCG at first. Charizard needs four Energy to attack. Its Pokémon Power seems great at first but the it hits you… why not just let it have Fire Spin priced at [CCCC]? Charizard works just as well in a Fire deck or non-Fire deck this way but does not have to worry about its Pokémon Power being turned off.
Charizard’s best chance to be even somewhat good was probably when the Legendary Collection became a thing. Unfortunately, the Legendary Collection released between the Neo-series and the e-card series. Why was that bad? Timing. The e-card series were the last three sets released under Wizards of the Coast. When what would eventually become TPCi took over from them, they kept the last three sets Wizards of the Coast released. Which means the Legendary Collection was tournament legal for only around a year, under WotC. WotC was kind of awful at providing tournaments for Organized Play. Anyway, during this time, Charizard was legal in a Format that did not have Computer Search, Gust of Wind, Item Finder, PlusPower, etc. for Trainers, and when almost all Basic attackers were severely nerfed.
Go ahead an enjoy Charizard as a collectible.
- Standard: N/A
- Expanded: N/A
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