Pichu – Neo Genesis
Date Reviewed: July 15, 2021
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
This week’s Throwback is Pichu from Neo Genesis, the set that starter Generation II and Baby Pokémon, which Pichu is one of. It’s also a card that I feel that it’s broken (not actually though, there are ways to work around it) against an unprepared opponent.
For starters, it has the Baby Rule, which isn’t a Pokémon Power, so it can’t be negated whatsoever. All of the other Baby Pokémon like Smoochum, Cleffa, and Igglybuff shares that trait as well: if your opponent tries to attack, they must flip a coin. If tails, their turn ends without an attack. It’s only attack, Zzzap, costs a single energy and does 20 damage to each Pokémon in play that has a Pokémon Power.
This attack is a double-edged sword. If you have any Pokémon with Pokémon Powers, they’ll take some damage. Same goes to the opponent as well. But you can mitigate that by not having any Pokémon with Pokémon Powers in play. If your opponent relies on Pokémon Powers to make their deck function, then their Pokémon may eventually be KOed in the course of six turns. HP scores and damage output wasn’t that high back then; the most printed amount of HP was 120.
For Unlimited, it’s usefulness greatly declined with the beginning of Black & White, where Abilities are a distinct mechanic and not the same as a Pokémon Power; Zzzap wouldn’t affect those Pokémon at all. It may have the 50/50 protection, but a combination of Virbank City Gym and Hypnotoxic Laser means it’s 30 HP will be wiped off in between turns. I can’t see Pichu being played at all today (if players still have it), but it was a great card back in the day in certain situations. No ratings for Standard or Expanded, but at its peak it would have been a four-out-of-five; it is splashable in any deck!
Pichu (Neo Genesis 12/111) is our Throwback for today. Its [L] typing doesn’t really matter, nor its total lack of Resistance. The rest, though, at least mattered back in the day when it was Modified (what we called “Standard” at the time) legal. It is a Basic Pokémon, so it was easy to run. Pichu is one of the original generation of Baby Pokémon, and from the first wave of that generation. Baby Pokémon are a subclass of Basic Pokémon. As Pikachu had already been released as a Basic Pokémon, when it and several other Pokémon received a “pre-evolved” form in the Gen II games, the TCG came up with Baby Pokémon. They have text on them that allows you to play the correct, corresponding Basic Pokémon on top of them to Evolve.
Of course, what people remember most is the Baby Rule. This effect was listed in a rule box on the card. I was a bit surprised they weren’t considered “Rule Box” Pokémon, but I think the official definition doesn’t care about cards that are only legal for the Unlimited Format. The Baby Rule states that, when your opponent declares an attack against an Active Baby Pokémon, they must flip a coin: “heads” and the attack goes through as normal, but “tails” and the attack fails. This is part of why Pichu’s 30 HP was decent; approximately half the time, it couldn’t even be attacked while Active.
Another part is that this was before about 20 years of power creep. Simply put, attackers did far less back then and nothing had more than a printed HP score of 120. Two more contributing factors were the lack of Weakness and Retreat Cost. This is as good as it gets for these stats. Without exploiting Weakness, it was hard to OHKO a 30 HP Pokémon in Modified. Bench hits rarely exceeded 20 damage, and being able to Retreat with ease was also a big help. Still, this is true of all Baby Pokémon from the Neo-series. What makes Pichu possibly the third best Neo-Baby Pokémon is its attack. For [C] it can use “Zzzap” to do 20 damage to each Pokémon in play with a Pokémon Power. Pokémon Powers are similar to Abilities, but considered their own, distinct mechanic. Poké-Powers and Poké-Bodies were introduced as well, and are treated as subclasses of Pokémon Powers. Which means Zzap hits Pokémon with either of those as well!
Finally, let me emphasize the game was slower back then. While not ideal, if you were desperate to counter something like Slowking (Neo Genesis 14/111), four Zzaps could wipe out every Slowking your opponent had in play. A little more practical was taking out certain fellow Baby Pokémon, like Igglybuff (Neo Discovery 40/75) and Elekid (Neo Genesis 22/111). Those two are why I’m not sure I can classify Pichu as the third best Baby. If you’re wondering, Cleffa (Neo Genesis 20/111) was the best, followed by Tyrogue (Neo Discovery 66/75). If your opponent had on Abilities, Pichu was still a free retreating Basic protected by the Baby Rule.
Would Pichu be any good now? A straight up reprint wouldn’t be, no. While its free Retreat and Baby rule might still come in handy, Zzap would be worthless. If we were to update Pichu, by all rights it would lose the Baby Rule, as it hasn’t been used since the e-card series 19 years ago. Even if it kept the Baby Rule and received an updated wording for Zapp, so that it hit Pokémon with Abilities instead of Pokémon Powers, 20 damage just ain’t what it used to be. Still, those of us who played back in the day remember how fearsome Pichu could be.
- Standard: N/A
- Expanded: N/A
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