The Original Pokémon TCG Base set hit the shelves in the US on January 9th, 1999, and it changed the face of Trading Card Games forever. Pokémon had taken the world by storm when the first games were released, and kids (as well as some adults) of the late 90's and early 00's couldn't get enough of the brand. Pokémon cards became as good as cash on the playground, and in my neighborhood, your holofoil collection was a status symbol, with the most popular kids having binders full of sparkling cardboard.

As time passes, the original Pokémon cards from the Base set have become harder to find, but for anyone looking to recapture a bit of the heyday of the Pokémon TCG, the original theme decks are a great place to start! They are also a fantastic way to introduce your friends to the mechanics of playing the game (as well as the different strategies you can employ) in a balanced format. 

Let's get nostalgic!

Zap! Deck

3 Abra (base1-43)
1 Kadabra (base1-32)
3 Gastly (base1-50)
2 Haunter (base1-29)
2 Jynx (base1-31)
2 Drowzee (base1-49)
1 Mewtwo (base1-10)
3 Magnemite (base1-53)
4 Pikachu (base1-58)
2 Bill (base1-91)
2 Gust of Wind (base1-93)    
2 Switch (base1-95)
1 Super Potion (base1-90)
1 Potion (base1-94)
1 Defender (base1-80)
1 Professor Oak (base1-88)
1 Computer Search (base1-71)
12 Lightning Energy (base1-100)
16 Psychic Energy (base1-101)

Zap! Is a deck with one goal: disable the opponent's Pokémon by any means necessary. Most of the Pokémon in this deck have the ability to put their opponents to Sleep, Confuse or Paralyze them, thus preventing them from attacking you. Then you chip away at their health while they're helpless. The deck as sold in stores has some good abilities to let you lock your opponent out of attacking, but there's definitely room for improvement. Let's optimize the deck a bit to give it some extra kick!

Zap! Deck Optimized

3 Abra (base1-43)
1 Kadabra (base1-32)
4 Gastly (base1-50)
2 Haunter (base1-29)
2 Jynx (base1-31)
3 Magnemite (base1-53)
4 Pikachu (base1-58)
1 Raichu (base1-14)
2 Electabuzz (base1-20)
2 Bill (base1-91)
2 Gust of Wind (base1-93)    
1 Switch (base1-95)
2 Super Potion (base1-90)
1 Energy Retrieval (base1-81)
1 Defender (base1-80)
1 Professor Oak (base1-88)
1 Computer Search (base1-71)
15 Psychic Energy (base1-101)
11 Lightning Energy (base1-100)

With the new additions, we have some stronger bodies who will fit in with the theme that Zap! sets up. Electabuzz (base1-20) is almost mandatory for this deck, because it's so useful and its attacks are all inexpensive on energy. Raichu (base1-14) is a solid body that can pop Agility to make it much harder to knock out than would be expected. Unfortunately, our tweaks did cost us Mewtwo (base1-10)...sorry Psychic type fans.

Overgrowth Deck

4 Bulbasaur (base1-44)    
2 Ivysaur (base1-30))    
4 Weedle (base1-69)    
2 Kakuna (base1-33)    
1 Beedrill (base1-17)    
4 Staryu (base1-65)
3 Starmie (base1-64)
2 Magikarp (base1-35)    
1 Gyarados (base1-6)
2 Bill (base1-91)
2 Gust of Wind (base1-93)    
1 Potion (base1-94)
2 Super Potion (base1-90)
2 Switch (base1-95)
16 Grass Energy (base1-99)
12 Water Energy (base1-102)

Overgrowth has a simple goal: get big, then attack for max damage. Unlike in Zap!, there is an emphasis placed on evolving your Pokémon with this deck to get the most out of them. Gyarados (base1-6) can hit in with Dragon Rage for heavy damage, and many of the Pokémon have attacks that can inflict either Poison or Paralysis to help capitalize on damage infliction, or prevent your Pokémon from being attacked. The optimized deck adds a few extra heavy hitters.

Overgrowth Deck Optimized

4 Bulbasaur (base1-44)    
3 Ivysaur (base1-30))    
1 Venusaur (base1-15)
4 Weedle (base1-69)    
2 Kakuna (base1-33)    
1 Beedrill (base1-17)    
1 Staryu (base1-65)
4 Magikarp (base1-35)    
2 Gyarados (base1-6)
2 Bill (base1-91)
2 Gust of Wind (base1-93)    
1 Potion (base1-94)
1 Pokémon Breeder (base1-76)
2 Super Potion (base1-90)
2 Switch (base1-95)
18 Grass Energy (base1-99)
10 Water Energy (base1-102)

Now we're talking! We've got a second Gyarados (base1-6) and a Venusaur (base1-15) to help increase the overall survivability of our team, and with the help of Pokémon Breeder (base1-76), we can get our heavy hitters out faster. The energy balance is tweaked a bit as well, just to help support the extra grass types.

Brushfire Deck

4 Charmander (base1-46)
2 Charmeleon (base1-24)
2 Vulpix (base1-68)
1 Ninetales (base1-12)
2 Growlithe (base1-28)
1 Arcanine (base1-23)
4 Weedle (base1-69)
4 Nidoran♂ (base1-55)
2 Tangela (base1-66)
1 Energy Removal (base1-92)
2 Energy Retrieval (base1-81)
1 Gust of Wind (base1-93)    
1 Lass (base1-75)
1 PlusPower (base1-84)
3 Potion (base1-94)
1 Switch (base1-95)
18 Fire Energy (base1-98) 
10 Grass Energy (base1-99)

Brushfire wants to come out of the gate swinging. Most of the attacks hit like a truck, but at a cost: Fire attacks often require you to discard energy to use them, so you want to make your attacks count and try to limit their chances to heal up. Energy Retrieval (base1-81) will be key to helping keep your Pokémon stocked up and ready for the next attack. Now, let's optimize the deck a bit to help get the most out of your team:

Brushfire Deck Optimized

4 Charmander (base1-46)
2 Charmeleon (base1-24)
1 Charizard (base1-4)
2 Magmar (base1-36)
2 Growlithe (base1-28)
1 Arcanine (base1-23)
4 Weedle (base1-69)
4 Nidoran♂ (base1-55)
2 Tangela (base1-66)
2 Energy Retrieval (base1-81)
2 Gust of Wind (base1-93)    
2 PlusPower (base1-84)
1 Pokémon Trader (base1-77)
3 Potion (base1-94)
18 Fire Energy (base1-98) 
10 Grass Energy (base1-99)

We dropped Vulpix (base1-68) in favor of adding Magmar (base1-36), who is a strong basic Pokémon, and for losing Ninetales (base1-12), we pick up Charizard (base1-4), who epitomizes the deck playstyle of hitting hard at a cost. Another Gust of Wind (base1-93) will help us ensure that we can attack the same target and limit the chances our opponent has to heal up.

Blackout Deck

3 Sandshrew (base1-62)
4 Machop (base1-52)
2 Machoke (base1-34)
3 Onix (base1-56)
1 Hitmonchan (base1-7)
4 Squirtle (base1-63)
2 Wartortle (base1-42)
3 Staryu (base1-65)
2 Farfetch'd (base1-27)
4 Energy Removal (base1-92)
1 Gust of Wind (base1-93)    
1 PlusPower (base1-84)
1 Professor Oak (base1-88)
1 Super Energy Removal (base1-79)
16 Fighting Energy (base1-97)
12 Water Energy (base1-102)

Blackout is a bit more trainer reliant than the other decks but its theme is brutal: remove energy cards from your opponent's Pokémon, leaving them defenseless while you knock them out with your own Pokémon. We want to capitalize on the energy removal, so optimizing the deck really helps achieve that.

Blackout Deck Optimized

2 Sandshrew (base1-62)
4 Machop (base1-52)
2 Machoke (base1-34)
1 Hitmonchan (base1-7)
4 Squirtle (base1-63)
2 Wartortle (base1-42)
1 Blastoise (base1-2)
3 Staryu (base1-65)
2 Starmie (base1-64)
3 Dratini (base1-26)
1 Dragonair (base1-18)
4 Energy Removal (base1-92)
1 Professor Oak (base1-88)
2 Super Energy Removal (base1-79)
14 Fighting Energy (base1-97)
14 Water Energy (base1-102)

Another Super Energy Removal (base1-79) and Dragonair's Hyper Beam make for some excellent additional energy removal, while Blastoise (base1-2) is sure to help keep your team well energized, thanks to rain dance.