February 6, 2020
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Standard: N/A (In it’s own time in Modified back in around 1999 or 2000, it’d probably be around 3.5/5)
Details: I used to have that card before!
I’m not sure how good Lickitung was, but I imagine it was decent back then. 90 HP on a basic on Base Set days was largely unheard of, tying with Snorlax. I guess you can consider both Snorlax and Lickitung to be “big basics” in its time. Even Hitmonchan would have to hit Lickitung three times with the Jab Attack unless you have Plus Powers. We’re going to ignore the 50% confusion chance for two energy, but it’s first attack….was one of the best single energy attacks out there. 10 damage plus 50% chance of Paralysis?! If you get lucky and can stall enough you could eventually win! But then again, Switch is there to ruin the Paralysis effect as the Pokémon switching out gets cured.
Nowadays, it probably sees no play due to massive power creep and even more ways to play around with Paralysis due to a plethora of cards with switching effects. If there’s any tiny slither of hope for it’s viability, it will be when your opponent doesn’t have answers against Paralysis. And Victini’s Victory Star helps improve your coin flips should the first one fail.
Lickitung (Jungle 38/64; Base Set 2 48/130), I remember how we thought you were so good at first, but then we learned better, how you could only stall so long before another deck like Haymaker…
…my life is a lie! Okay, okay, I don’t think it changes things that dramatically. Jason Klaczynski does an excellent job of reminding me not only how little I understood of the Pokémon TCG back in the day, but how even now there are surprises to be had revisiting classic formats. Time to give the original Lickitung its due, 20 years later.
Lickitung is a [C] Type Pokémon; no Weakness, Resistance, or Type-based effects. Being a Basic was the best, just like it is now. 90 HP was durable back then, hard to KO (not just OHKO) and the second highest you’d find on a Basic. [F] Weakness was not a happy thing, though the HP means it could be endured. -30 [P] Resistance started out nice but became a huge selling point for reasons Ness explains on his website. The massive Retreat Cost of [CCC] was poor, but could be dealt with thanks to cards like Scoop Up and Switch.
Lickitung had two attacks. The second – “Super Sonic” – wasn’t too good. You paid [CC] to flip a coin; “heads” meant the opponent’s Active was Confused, “tails” meant the attack did nothing. Confusion was a lot better under the original rules, but “tails fails” meant this was something of a desperate move. “Tongue Wrap” requires [C], does 10 damage, and also has you flip a coin. You do 10 damage either way, but this time “heads” scores Paralysis. What is now a filler attack for evolving Basics was Lickitung’s claim to fame. With its size, it could really slow your opponent down. Well, with its HP and the right support…
…again, read Jason’s articles for the full explanation. The short version is that some of the most powerful Trainers in the Pokémon TCG released in the Base Set. Energy Removal and Super Energy Removal are two of those, and they make it very hard for a player to power-up any “big” attacks, because they make it very easy to strip away your opponent’s Energy turn after turn. Pokémon Center and/or Scoop Up provided healing for Lickitung. Which we all knew back in the day as well. For some reason, though, Lickitung Stall/Control decks were not the dominant force back then.
Lickitung, it turns out we hardly knew ye. I don’t know if we just refused to accept the style of play we now know makes you incredibly effective in a Base-Jungle to Base-Rocket Format. Maybe the weird combo of card scarcity and not knowing what worked led to more less-than-competitive decks still playing a major role in the metagame… a role that somehow kept Lickitung from living up to what we now know about it. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it all, and I can’t test it first hand, but Jason makes a compelling case I cannot refute.
Let’s be perfectly honest here, if you had told me that a card in Pokemon that wasn’t a rare or super shiny holo card was responsible for flipping the meta on its head, I wouldn’t have looked twice. It’s not like it’s earth-shattering for the occasionally widespread card to be seen on a competitive level – see things like Squirtle from Boundaries Crossed or lately Pidgeotto from Pidgeotto Control, both of which are common cards. But if you had told me that there was a card that hadn’t been used competitively at the time of its release, but if it had been it actually would have absolutely destroyed even the highest meta cards of its time, I would probably be looking at you like, “No, I don’t think Slowbro’s Walk-Off Homer would be good enough to beat out Trevenant BREAK.”
Crazy as it is, somebody found out something like that happened…okay, maybe not to that extreme, but you get my drift.
Lickitung is a Basic Colorless Pokemon, 90 HP (back when that was high), with a Fighting Weakness, a Psychic Resistance (back when Colorless Pokemon could have that), and a Retreat Cost of 3. Tongue Wrap is a 1-for-10 that flips a coin to Paralyze your opponent’s Pokemon while Supersonic costs 2 Energy and flips a coin to Confuse them – note that Confusion back then would mean that not only would attacking cause them to flip a coin but so would a manual retreat.
The story goes that a couple of professional players, Jason “Ness” Klaczynski and Kyle “Pooka” Sucevich, were messing around with playing cards in an older format – mainly the Base Set to Fossil format. Because Pooka didn’t have a deck, he scrapped together one from a mess of random cards. And by random, that’s really more random for the time frame he’s picking out of. Essentially, he built a stall deck, complete with Energy Removals, Chansey, Mr. Mime, Moltres…Magmar…wait what the heck is this decklist eve-
AND THEN THERE WAS LICKITUNG, AND THIS WAS THE REASON THE DECK WAS SO GOOD!!
Well, it was one of the reasons it was so good. Lickitung provided a major counter to one of the bigger Pokemon at the time with Mewtwo. That Psychic Resistance actually comes in handy! Moltres could stall out around Haymaker’s Hitmonchan, whose Fighting Type worked into Moltres’s Resistance to Fighting, and pretty much anything else – including the powerful Rain Dance deck – lost out to Energy Removals and the Mr. Mime Poke-Power of Invisible Wall. And considering that Haymaker has been remembered as being the most powerful deck of the early Pokemon TCG, it’s surprising to hear this Pokemon come up in context of that.
So could Lickitung really do so much damage back in its day? Well, not really. Tongue Wrap only does 10 damage after all. But between the 50/50 chance of Paralysis to stop your opponent from attacking, and with cards like Energy Removal around, you could definitely stall out your opponent and maybe even take a Prize card. And if Lickitung got into trouble, just use Scoop Up to put him back into your hand – don’t even bother with the Retreat Cost!
Ness has a detailed listing of the Lickitung Stall deck over on his website, where he covers a ton of retro formats and talks about the best decks not only that were known at the time but also those discovered later on. And if you wanna hear the story of it, TheJWitz also made a video about the topic recently, appropriately titled: Haymaker is NOT the Best Retro Pokemon TCG Deck. Needless to say, it’s funny what you’ll find out in hindsight with retro formats!
Standard: N/A (Lickitung’s not available in any form in the current format)
Expanded: N/A (and it’s certainly not applicable in our current Expanded format)
Base-Jungle: 4.5/5 (makes for a powerhouse stall deck though in this format)
Limited: 4/5 (between a high HP and a cheap attack with a good chance of Paralyzing, it’s a good Pokemon here)
Arora Notealus: I actually do remember having Lickitung, but like many people back in those days, I wasn’t really focused at putting away a competitive number of wins under my small belt. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what was great, but I could at least say that the Pokemon TCG GameBoy game was great to play – I loved renting it out from Blockbuster and trying to get through as much as I could in a short time span, and it always stuck out in my head! Ahhhh, to be young again…
Next Time: And now to jump into our Top 11 of the Gen 8 sets!
We would love more volunteers to help us with our Card of the Day reviews. If you want to share your ideas on cards with other fans, feel free to drop us an email. We’d be happy to link back to your blog / YouTube Channel / etc. 😉
Click here to read our Pokémon Card of the Day Archive. We have reviewed more than 3500 Pokemon cards over the last 17+ years!