Pokemon TCG

Bust Out Your Old Pokemon Cards Because People Are Playing This Classic Format

If you’re burned out on the current Pokemon TCG metagame, you’re not alone — people are busting out their classic Pokemon cards to play in the Base-Neo format.

Legal sets in the base-neo format

The Base Set – Neo Destiny format (Base-Neo for short) was the final stage in Wizards of the Coast’s Standard format before the introduction of the Modified Format in September 2001.

While the format wasn’t perfect, it’s looked back fondly upon partly because the Neo sets remedied huge issues with the early Pokemon TCG metagame.

Before we jump into more details about the Base-Neo metagame, let’s review some of the key rule differences in Base-Neo that you might not be aware of.


You can attack on your first turn. There’s some actual donk potential in format. Unfortunately, this means going first is extremely beneficial.

There are no Supporter cards. In other words, you’re able to use ridiculously useful Trainer cards as often as you’d like during your turn.

You can retreat as often as you like during your turn. If you’re confused, you must flip a coin after you pay the retreat cost; if tails, you can’t retreat.

Now that we got those rules out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the meta.

Slow games

Compared to the fast and disruption-heavy games of the pre-Neo formats, Base-Neo was pretty slow.

The release of “Baby” cards in Neo Genesis slowed the game down a lot because Baby Pokemon had a special caveat.

“If this Baby Pokemon is your Active Pokemon and your opponent tries to attack, your opponent flips a coin (before doing anything else required in order to use that attack). If tails, your opponent’s turn ends without an attack.”

And the grand-daddy of all Baby Pokemon was Cleffa (Neo Genesis), with a terrific-yet-simple one-Energy attack: “Shuffle your hand into your deck, then draw 7 cards.”

With Cleffa, it didn’t matter if your opponent used cards like Imposter Oak’s Revenge to put you behind — you just throw Cleffa in the active position, refresh your hand, and pray that your opponent doesn’t flip heads.

If your deck doesn’t run 4 Cleffa, you’re just bad.

But Cleffa didn’t actually mitigate all disruption cards — it’s actually bit more complicated than that. If you paired Cleffa with the Lass Trainer card on your first turn, you’d give yourself a huge advantage over your opponent even if they might be able to recover later with their own Cleffa.

Lass: “You and your opponent show each other your hands, then shuffle all the Trainer cards from your hands into your decks.”

Preventing your opponent from using cards like Professor Elm was huge.

The Pokemon

I’m guessing you’re not reading this to hear about how busted Cleffa was.

You want to read about how you can use your PSA 10 shadowless first edition Base Set Charizard in battle, right?

PSA 10 First Edition Shadowless Charizard
A card this expensive has to be broken, right? Wrong.

Well, unfortunately that Charizard was kind of crappy in this format.

Instead, Sneasel (Neo Genesis) is the best representation of the Base-Neo metagame.

For two Darkness Energy, Sneasel’s Beat Up allowed you to “flip a coin for each of your Pokemon in play (including this one). This attack does 20 damage times the number of heads.”

Sneasel did a ton of damage and was relatively easy to set up — and it only had 60 HP (you’ll save so much money on dice)!

And let’s not forget that Darkness Energy added even more damage: “If the Pokemon Darkness Energy is attached to does damage with an attack (after applying Weakness and Resistance), the attack does 10 more damage.”

But Sneasel isn’t out there alone, because it’s often played alongside Dark Crobat (Neo Destiny).

Dark Crobat has free retreat cost an extremely good Pokemon Power: “When you play Dark Crobat from your hand, you may choose 1 of your opponent’s Pokemon. This power does 20 damage to that Pokemon.”

Dark Golbat (Team Rocket) has a similar Pokemon Power except with 10 damage instead of 20.

If you want an in-depth look at this deck, I recommend watching TrickyGym’s deck profile. In fact, I recommend checking out all of TrickyGym’s Base-Neo videos.

Like Sneasel, another deck that perfectly represented the Base-Neo format is Kingdra (Neo Revelation).

Kingdra itself is a behemoth of a card just in terms of HP with a whopping 90 HP (and no weakness). It doesn’t sound like a lot compared the newly released Pokemon-V, but keep in mind this was a 1-prize format where attacks were hitting for 30 damage. These metrics combined with the Cleffa shenanigans mentioned earlier contributed to slow, drawn-out games.

Kingdra was used mostly for its Genetic Memory attack, which allowed it to use Seadra’s Mud Splash attack for only one Energy.

Mud Splash did 30 damage and “if your opponent has any Benched Pokemon, choose of them and flip a coin. If heads, this attack does 10 damage to that Pokemon.”

It’s not an extremely hard-hitting attack, but Kingdra was durable and 30 damage for a single Energy was as almost as good as it gets.

Kingdra’s single-Energy attack also made it the perfect candidate for Pokemon Center, which remove all damage counters for the cost of discarding all Energy cards attached.

Kingdra and Sneasel were both iconic and great decks, but my personal favorite deck from this format was Rocket’s Zapdos.

Rocket’s Zapdos (Gym Challenge) had two great attacks. For one Lightning Energy, Rocket’s Zapdos did 20 damage and allowed you to attach a Lightning Energy from your discard pile to your Rocket’s Zapdos.

Its second attack did a massive 70 damage for three Lightning Energy and a Colorless Energy, but did 10 damage to itself for each Lightning Energy attached to it.

However, the absolutely broken Metal Energy as well as Gold Berry mitigated the damage it did to itself.

Take a closer look at the text of Metal Energy — it simultaneously decreased your damage by 10 while decreasing damage taken by 10. And it didn’t specify damage done to the defending Pokemon. So that means damage dealt to yourself is decreased by 20 in total!

Whether it was intentional or not, Metal Energy effectively eliminated the biggest downside to Rocket’s Zapdos.

Rocket’s Zapdos did a ton of damage, but still required a ton of Energy. That’s why this deck ran a ton of cards that locked down your opponent.

Super Energy Removal was particularly good in this deck: “Discard 1 Energy card attached to 1 of your own Pokemon in order to choose 1 of your opponent’s Pokemon and up to 2 Energy cards attached to it. Discard those Energy cards.”

You could use Super Energy Removal with no problem because Rocket’s Zapdos has inherent Energy acceleration from the discard pile with its Plasma attack.

And since Plasma was putting an Energy from the discard pile onto a Pokemon, you could still use Pokemon Tower, a Stadium card that prevented either player from putting cards from their discard pile into their hand.

This deck also used Muk (Fossil) to shut down Pokemon Powers, which helped against cards like Dark Crobat and Dark Vileplume.

And since Rocket’s Zapdos couldn’t quickly knock-out Cleffa, this deck also utilized Tyrogue (Neo Discovery).

We’ve covered a lot of cards in this article, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. After all, we didn’t even mention Slowking.

But there are a lot of playable Pokemon in this format, and it’s a whole new (err, old) world for you to discover!

Resurgence in popularity

Throughout the past decade, there’s been a resurgence in popularity for these cards as people have dusted off their old decks to battle their friends.

With the help of passionate bloggers and YouTubers, Base-Neo has lived on and will continue to live on throughout the next decade.

The Base-Neo scene is notably active in South America, but you’ll find people setting up tournaments for this format all over the world. And if there’s not a community of Base-Neo enthusiasts near you, it’s better late than never to start your own community.

Of course, popularity comes with a cost, literally — some of the best cards in this format are now ridiculously expensive.

I guess it’s time for you to rummage through your closet to find those valuable cards you’ve forgotten about.

Off Meta is dedicated to delivering free content without a paywall or subscription, but we can’t do it without some help.

You can help us out by giving us a follow on Twitter and a like on Facebook.

2 comments on “Bust Out Your Old Pokemon Cards Because People Are Playing This Classic Format

  1. Nice post, but every youtuber and american blogger forget to speak about the chilean PTCG oldschool community. We have a large group today (+2000 people in our FB page), nine years after his creation; we had eight national tournaments (with an average of 60 players) were some people trip more than 1200 kms to play, and we kept alive the spirit of the base-neo format, evolving our meta year by year.

    Sorry to say this, but we deserve a little of credit for kept this format active, and for making people talk about this.

    • offmetastaff

      I did mention “the Base-Neo scene is notably active in South America” but I definitely could have went into more detail about the Chilean scene’s huge contributions.

Leave a Reply