If you didn’t read my first ‘Blast from the Past’ article on Gardevoir/Gallade, this is a new series looking at some of the most dominant and successful decks throughout the history of the Pokemon TCG. I always find it interesting to see what defined a good deck/card at different points throughout the history of the Pokemon TCG, and some of the changes that the game has gone through since to get to the point that it’s now at.
Today’s article is going to look at a deck that I think a lot of people will have heard of before, and will have a good idea of most of the cards that it uses – Haymaker. Haymaker was the first dominant deck that the Pokemon TCG has witnessed, mainly because it is built mostly with cards from the first Pokemon TCG set (Base Set), all those years ago when Pokemon was going through it’s huge explosion of popularity.
It aimed to win games through using a variety of Basic Pokemon to quickly start putting small amounts of damage on the opponent’s field from the first turn, and putting them into a situation where they struggled to set up any evolutions.
Does it sound familiar to you? I personally find that there are a lot of similarities between Haymaker and Big Basics. The only main difference is that the original Haymaker used ‘overpowered’ Basics that had 70HP and hit for 20 damage on the first turn!
Of course, although the Pokemon themselves have gone through a huge power creep since then, Trainers are also much less powerful. You’ll notice a lot of similarities between some of the Trainers that were used then and now – Professor Oak does exactly the same as Professor Juniper now, and of course Computer Search is a reprint of it’s Base Set counterpart.
The difference? Right now, any exceptional Trainers are classed under Supporters or Ace Specs, to put a limitation on how often they can be used. During Base Set, there were none what so ever. You could discard your hand and draw a new hand of seven up to four times on your first turn if you wanted, and then retrieve any Professor Oaks from the discard with Item Finder to do it all again (Item Finder has the same effect as Dowsing Machine).
Let’s have a look at a deck list:
4 Professor Oak
4 Energy Removal
4 Super Energy Removal
3 Item Finder
4 Plus Power
3 Gust of Wind
2 Computer Search
4 Double Colourless energy
9 Fighting energy
8 Lightning energy
Hitmonchan is the primary attacking Pokemon here, hitting for a solid 20 damage for one energy on the first turn. Along with several Plus Power, this damage could be increased to perhaps 40 or 50 damage – remember a Stage 2 Pokemon like Blastoise only had 100 HP. While Scyther can’t use Swords Dance since my deck list doesn’t run Grass energy, it can still hit for 30 damage with Slash for essentially just two energy attachments. Electabuzz only hits for 10 damage for one Lightning energy, but it also comes with a 50% chance of paralysing the Defending Pokemon, which can be useful under different circumstances.
Professor Oak and Bill provide the main draw power here. Thanks to Computer Search and Item Finder, they’re easy to search out from the deck or reuse from the discard pile if needbe. Energy Removal and Super Energy Removal are almost like Crushing Hammer on Steroids, and help to even further slow the opponent’s set up down (they’re part of the reason we play so many energy in this deck list).
Energy Removal allows you to remove an energy attached to any of the opponent’s Pokemon, with no coin flip required. Super Energy Removal goes one step further and removes two energy cards from any of their Pokemon, provided you discard one energy attached to any of your Pokemon. Since most of the attacking Pokemon in this deck only need one energy anyway, discarding it isn’t a big deal if you can just attach another.
The four Plus Power can be reused with Item Finder if needbe, and they’re really important to steal those important knock outs early on. Most Basic Pokemon which went on to evolve only had around 40HP, and since the key to winning with this deck is to overwhelm the opponent, getting that extra 10 or 20 damage can be crucial. Remember, even though 10 extra damage might not sound a lot, Hitmonchan’s main attack only hit for 20 damage.
Gust of Wind has the exact same printing as Pokemon Catcher, and just like now, it helped to knock out important Pokemon on the opponent’s bench and disrupt their set up further.
It might seem like a lot of energy to play – 21 overall. However, there were no cards like Dark Patch or Eelektrik to get them back from the discard pie, and reuse them. In addition, cards like Energy Removal were popular in most decks at that time, and Haymaker ideally looked to attach either two or three energy to each Pokemon. Since they each only gave up one prize card when knocked out, unlike the EX Pokemon which give out two now, games were much longer and drawn out as well.
If you look on other websites, you’ll notice that a lot of Haymaker deck lists differ depending on which what sets were released when each particular article was written. I decided to concentrate on the original version of the deck here with cards that most people who played or collected then should be familiar with, but experimenting with different Pokemon and Trainer cards from further expansions is always a great idea if you’re interested in giving this deck a go.