Before the game’s first expansion debuted, there was no question that Haymaker was the game’s best deck. Built around the heavy-hitting duo of Hitmonchan and Electabuzz, it struck quickly, relying on Gust of Wind and PlusPower to knock out weak Basic Pokémon before they could evolve into their more powerful forms. Since the deck itself played no Evolved Pokémon, it had plenty of room for additional Trainer cards, like Energy Removal & Super Energy Removal, which prevented opponents from launching their strongest attacks. With Haymaker so dominant, players happily welcomed the game’s first expansion set. Named Jungle, it debuted in the US in Summer of 1999, six months after the release of Base Set. A mere 48 cards (64 including non-holographic versions of holo cards), Jungle remains the smallest expansion set the game would ever see, but nonetheless left players hopeful that new decks and strategies could be developed. Let’s take a look at the most impactful cards from the Jungle set.
Given the strength of Hitmonchan, Fighting Resistance was a very valuable attribute on a Pokémon in the early days. While there was no shortage of Fighting-resistant Pokémon in Base Set, none of them were particularly impressive. Those that had decent attacks, like Farfetch’d, were weak to Lightning, which allowed Haymaker decks to switch into Electabuzz and score an easy knockout.
Jungle‘s Scyther, though, was different. It boasted an impressive 70 HP, it had a zero retreat cost and it was weak to Fire, not Lightning, meaning Haymaker decks could not hit its Weakness. But Scyther’s most notable feature was that its Slash attack required only Colorless Energy, allowing it to fit into any deck.
The hope was that Scyther would mark the beginning of the Haymaker deck’s demise, and while it certainly made things harder for Hitmonchan, the card’s versatility was taken advantage of by basically every deck. This included the Haymaker itself, which gained another solid Basic Pokémon to pair with Hitmonchan.
Lickitung was never given the credit it deserved back in 1999, but in re-exploring the Base & Jungle format nearly two decades later, I realized it was one of the best Pokémon of its time. With 90 HP and the ability to paralyze, Lickitung is great at stalling your opponent. Needing only one Energy to attack, it’s easy to heal with Pokémon Center & Scoop Up. When you add Energy Removal & Super Energy Removal to the mix, Lickitung makes for a hard-earned prize card.
While Lickitung’s Fighting Weakness might seem like an issue in a format so heavily based around Hitmonchan, remember that Scyther debuted in the same set, forming the perfect partner for it. If your opponent sent up a Hitmonchan to Jab your Lickitung, you could play Scoop Up to return Lickitung to your hand, then promote Scyther, turning things on them.
Evolved Pokémon saw little success during the first year of the game. Hampered by Energy Removal & Super Energy Removal, they were slow to set up and required too much Energy to do too little damage. Wigglytuff, however, looked a little more promising. Its Do the Wave attack could reach 60 damage, which was was only one PlusPower away from scoring a one-hit KO on Hitmonchan and Electabuzz, as well as the new Scyther. It could also be fueled with Double Colorless Energy, giving it a fighting chance against Super Energy Removal.
Like Lickitung, Dodrio is another Pokémon that didn’t get the credit it deserved during its time, but it’s actually one of the best Evolved Pokémon from the game’s first three sets. Weakness and Resistance play a huge role in the early formats and Dodrio’s Retreat Aid makes it easy to switch around your Pokémon to exploit them.
Mr. Mime’s full potential would not be realized until later in 1999, when additional powerful Psychic Pokémon debuted, but it’s still a solid Pokémon in the Base & Jungle format. It hits Hitmonchan’s Weakness and its Invisible Wall can be a pain for decks to deal with. Some Pokémon, like Scyther, have no attack that can damage Mr. Mime.
The Base & Jungle format is often mischaracterized as being nothing more than a mindless slug-fest between two Haymaker decks. And to be fair, back in 1999, that wasn’t an inaccurate description of how it was played. But when friends and I began re-exploring the Base & Jungle format in 2016, we discovered there was much more to it than originally remembered. We managed to develop several decks that could go toe-to-toe (and even defeat) the Haymaker deck—a deck that was regarded as nearly unbeatable back in 1999!—and we also realized that games were intensely skill-based. In fact, I consider the Base & Jungle format the most skill-based format in the history of the game. The reason for this is that drawing six prizes through -30 Resistance, Scoop Up and Super Energy Removal is very difficult. With prizes so hard to come by, most games end in a deck-out, creating a format where it becomes critical to get as much use out of every single card in your deck as possible.
Despite its limited card pool of 150 cards, deck building in Base & Jungle can go deep, with odd cards like Maintenance and Imposter Professor Oak sometimes showing up in decks. Turns start and end quickly, and players are constantly faced with crucial decisions, not just what cards to play, but what cards not to play. The format certainly takes some getting used to, and there’s some tips towards the bottom of this article that will help you do just that. With practice, you’ll learn how to preserve cards for the right moment, and if you’re like me, Base & Jungle will end up becoming one of your favorite formats to play.
Below are eight of my favorite decks for the Base & Jungle format. Though most of them will seem straight-forward, the format itself can be tricky to learn, as it places a huge emphasis on preserving cards for the right moment.
🌠 Iconic Deck
Alakazam’s Damage Swap heals Mr. Mime, making it impossible to KO as long as its Invisible Wall Pokémon Power is working. Chansey and other high-HP Basics serve to absorb damage, while Scyther works as an alternate attacker to deal with the Psychic-resistant Pokémon Mr. Mime can’t damage. Though you’ll win many games by running your opponent out of cards, this deck definitely has the capability to draw six prize cards.
Both Clefable and Hitmonchan can launch effective attacks for a single Energy, which make them great against Energy Removal & Super Energy Removal. But since both of these Pokémon can be stumped easily (Hitmonchan by Fighting-resistant Pokémon and Clefable by weak attackers), you’ll need a way to easily switch them out. That’s where Dodrio’s Retreat Aid comes in handy, allowing you to easily find the right attacker for the moment. With this easy ability to retreat, you can move damaged Pokémon to the Bench, then use Pokémon Center to heal multiple Pokémon at once.
🌠 Iconic Deck
Fast and aggressive, this iconic deck uses 4 PlusPower and 3 Gust of Wind to put immediate pressure on the opponent. Scoop Up not only allows you to heal your 70 HP Basics, but also bail out Hitmonchan anytime it comes across a Fighting-Resistant Pokémon. Able to attack for one Energy, the deck can withstand Energy Removal & Super Energy Removal.
Tip: Play Lass immediately before Jabbing a Fighting-weak Electabuzz, preventing your opponent from denying a KO with a timely Scoop Up or Switch.
Using Dodrio’s Retreat Aid, you can easily switch out your Fighting-type Pokémon to Charmander or Charmeleon when you face Scyther. With a PlusPower, Charmander’s Ember will give you an easy one-hit KO.
Other than Charmander, another good partner for your Fighting Pokémon and Dodrio is Mr. Mime. Though Mr. Mime isn’t as effective at dealing with Scyther as Charmander, it is stronger against other Hitmonchans you may encounter.
Another Haymaker variant, this deck uses Rapidash’s Stomp to deal with Scyther.
🏆 Top Deck
Constant Tongue Wrap attacks alongside a 4/4 Removal line will leave your opponent struggling to attack. Any damage your opponent does manage to do can be erased by Pokémon Center and Scoop Up, while Scyther shuts down any attempt to exploit Lickitung’s Fighting Weaknesses.
Tip: If your opponent starts to play passively, putting you in danger of decking out first, switch gears and go aggressive with attacks like Meditate and Slash.
Kangaskhan’s Fetch will help you evolve Bulbasaur all the way to Venusaur as you accumulate Energy in play. After securing Venusaur and four Grass Energy, you can begin launching either Comet Punch or Solarbeam attacks. Venusaur’s Energy Trans then allows you to use Pokémon Center to heal your Pokémon without losing any Energy cards, while Dodrio’s Retreat Aid will help Venusaur retreat when in trouble.
Tip: When attempting to power up a Solarbeam, use Energy Trans to spread your Energy cards out to 1 per Pokémon. This will weaken your opponent’s Super Energy Removal.
Revised on 5/8/2022: -1 Scyther, -2 Computer Search, -1 Professor Oak, -1 Pokémon Trader, -1 Gust of Wind, -1 Super Energy Removal, +1 Ivysaur, +1 Chansey, +4 Bill, +1 Energy Retrieval
🏆 Top Deck
With a full Bench and a PlusPower, Wigglytuff’s Do the Wave can hit for a devastating 70 damage, landing a one-hit KO on the format’s most popular Pokémon. Lass helps protect Wigglytuff from Energy Removal & Super Energy Removal, allowing you to keep the big attacks coming.
Tip: Lead with Electabuzz, baiting some of your opponent’s Energy Removal & Super Energy Removal cards. This gives your Double Colorless Energy a better chance at not being immediately discarded later in the game.
Looking to try the Base & Jungle format out with a friend and want a match-up that is close to even and fun to play? Here are some of my favorites:
- Lickitung Stall vs Hitmonchan/Charmander/Dodrio
- Lickitung Stall vs Hitmonchan/Scyther/Rapidash
- Lickitung Stall vs Wigglytuff/Electabuzz
- Haymaker vs Hitmonchan/Scyther/Rapidash
- Haymaker vs Hitmonchan/Mr. Mime/Dodrio
- Wigglytuff/Electabuzz vs Clefable/Hitmonchan/Dodrio
Fortunately for deck builders, cards from both Base Set and Jungle are still in decent supply. The Base & Jungle format (and any 1999 format) remain more affordable than some of the other retro formats that follow it. Here’s a couple of tips for finding affordable cards from these sets:
- Nearly all playable cards from both Base Set and Jungle were reprinted in Base Set 2. Cards from this set are often cheaper than their original versions.
- All holographic cards in the English Jungle set are also available in non-holographic form. Not surprising, the non-holos are easier to come by than the holos.
Base & Jungle is a heavily skill-based format, but it can be difficult to get the hang of right away because it forces you to learn how to preserve cards you will often be tempted to play at the wrong time. Here are some tips that will help you win more games in not just Base & Jungle, but also the Base-Fossil format that follows.
#1 Be careful with Professor Oak
Break the habit of thinking you have to play a draw card each turn, as you may be accustomed to with Supporter cards in today’s formats. It’s sometimes correct to hold off on playing a Professor Oak just to preserve a single card.
#2 Avoid attaching energy to heavily-damaged Pokémon
Considering so many of your Energy cards will be discarded by Energy Removal & Super Energy Removal cards, it’s important to make all of your Energy cards count. Rather than continue attaching Energy cards to a heavily damaged Pokémon, it’s often best to give up on a Pokémon and start attaching these Energies to a fresh one instead.
#3 Pay attention to deck count
In no format is the amount of cards remaining in your deck more important than in Base & Jungle. Before playing Professor Oak, you should have a sense of who will be left with more cards in their deck: you or your opponent. If you fall behind on cards, the pressure is on you to create a path to draw all six prizes.
#4 Keep Basic Pokémon (and other cards) safe in your hand
No cards in the 1999 formats can strip Pokémon from your hand, so it’s often advantageous to keep Basic Pokémon in your hand until you are ready to attach Energy to them. Keeping these Pokémon in your hand not only retains the option to discard them for a much needed Item Finder, Computer Search, or Energy Retrieval, but also keeps your opponent guessing as to what options are available to you.
#5 Don’t be discouraged!
Occasionally, multiple PlusPowers or a Turn 1 Lass might hand you a quick loss, but since these matches are all in fun, there’s no need to lose sleep over it! Unlike at a tournament, where a quick loss leaves you wandering the tournament hall, desperately searching for someone to listen to your sour grapes, casual play always allows you to simply shuffle up your cards and start a new game. If you keep playing this format, I promise you will enjoy some great matches.
In Fall of 1999, the game’s second expansion, Fossil, debuted. Released alongside it was a promotional Mewtwo card that took the game by storm, changing the way Pokémon was played.
Base Set | Base & Jungle | Base-Fossil