Where we left off, I had just drawn the Three of Pentacles on my way into Union Cave, which will allow me to catch the first Pokémon I see. I’m hoping for a Geodude or Onix; either one would be a pretty significant asset going into the next two gyms.
…but you take what you can get.
I’ll do my best to level up Pineapple a little bit on the way through Union Cave, but with the High Priestess keeping me from performing first aid, it’s going to be a little difficult. Damage my other Pokémon take as they switch in will add up, and she’s too injured to do any fighting herself, even against low-level wild Pokémon. I’m also permitted to teach Pineapple a TM move, but unfortunately the only ones I have so far are Bullet Seed, Roost and Flash, none of which she can learn.
Union Cave has multiple zones and is actually quite a complex area, but for the most part you can’t explore until you come back with Surf later in the game. I’ll wait until then to draw cards for the other sections of the cave.
Side note: I don’t think I’ve ever actually used a Sandshrew in this game before (when it first came out I had Soul Silver, and you can’t catch Sandshrew in that version) and… well, I’ve never been a great Sandshrew fan in the past, but that walking sprite is so cute I might be converted.
That’s a nice hint that there’s something special hidden away in this cave that you can only find on a Friday, presumably because the local bar has some really good happy hour deals on Fridays. I’ll have to try to time it so I come back here with Surf on a Friday.
This actually went pretty well; we’re not at Azalea Town yet, but my Pokémon are mostly in very good condition. Vasya lost a lot of HP at one point, but just healed the damage off with Synthesis. Even Pineapple is looking much rosier than when I caught her thanks to the HP she’s earned from levelling.
Aww, she doesn’t like the rain. Sandshrew do famously hate water. There’s a lot of that kind of thing in this game, and in the recent ones as well – Pokémon having unique reactions or animations when they’re out following you, or in activities like Pokémon Amie or Sword and Shield’s camp sites. I always love finding these.
Anyway, Route 33 is tiny, but it’s still an independent area, so…
The Tower: Ongoing: Every Pokémon that was in your active party when you drew this card is banned.
Immediate: Revoke the effects of all other cards currently in play. Only petrified Pokémon and Pokémon in the Vessel remain unusable.
I mean… we lose the Hierophant and the High Priestess; that’s good…
…and the Tower has a ruling that specifies you can catch a Pokémon of your choice if it would leave you with nothing, so I don’t have to go with luck of the draw…
…but I don’t exactly have a lot of options here. I can go for a Rattata, a Zubat, a Spearow or a Hoppip. Zubat is potentially a very good long-term pick, but will be really painful to train until learning Bite at level 13, and the best I can possibly catch here is level 8. Rattata should be good now, but underwhelming later. Spearow might be an okay middle ground, and would be a very strong pick for the Azalea Gym… but on the other hand, I know I can get a “free” Spearow in Goldenrod City. And Hoppip… I don’t think Hoppip can even deal damage at the level you’d catch one here; they start with Splash, Tail Whip and Synthesis.
…I think it’s gotta be Zubat, ultimately. It’s the best long-term choice, and should be really good in the next gym if I can train it up high enough to learn Wing Attack. It’s just… gonna be a little bit painful at first, that’s all…
I am becoming slightly concerned about my roster’s imbalanced gender ratio; that could be trouble further down the line. Beggars can’t be choosers, though. Anyway, let’s run ahead to Azalea Town so we can reorganise.
Team Rocket grunt can’t take romantic rejection…
Well, Nadja… it’s you and me. I’ll just, uh… do a bit of level grinding until it starts to feel too painful.
this is awful
Supersonic and Astonish work together really well if Supersonic lands, but 55% accuracy is so bad
There’s battles where everything goes great, and battles where Nadja loses more than half of her HP without doing damage.
Okay! Now we’re talking! Now that Nadja has an actual move, maybe it’s worth trying to continue forward.
This is Hiker Anthony. He can psychically detect when there are Dunsparce swarming in Dark Cave, all the way back on the other side of Violet City!
Well, I’ve been coming here already to deposit my princess in the Tower, and later to heal Nadja, but I’ve now officially arrived in Azalea Town.
Something is amiss in Azalea Town, with the local Slowpoke population having mysteriously disappeared and rumours circulating of their tails being sold. But don’t worry: local Cool Old Guy, Kurt, should be able to sort it out.
Well, I’m sure Kurt can handle whatever is going on, so I’ll just continue westward and check out Ilex Forest. We can’t get through the forest without Cut, and we can’t use Cut without the Azalea Gym’s badge, but we may as well take a quick look around anyway… and draw a card.
Hmm. Good in theory, but… I have a feeling I know where this is going.
Page – Never Have I Ever: Immediate: Teach all of your current party Pokémon a new move from a TM or TR (if possible, this must be a move that Pokémon has never known in the past). If some of your Pokémon can’t learn any new moves from the TMs you have, do as many as you can.
Page of Wands: Instead of teaching one move to each of your party Pokémon, teach a total of six moves to any of your party Pokémon. If you teach two or more moves to a single Pokémon, the later ones may not overwrite the earlier ones.
TMs, TMs everywhere… but in practice, of course, Zubat has a crummy movepool and probably can’t learn anything from the TMs I have.
Yeah, I’ll happily take Roost. The only question is, which of Nadja’s first three terrible moves is the worst…? You know, my heart says Supersonic, but honestly, now that we have Bite, Astonish is fairly redundant; we’re pre-Fairy types here, so Dark attacks work as well as Ghost attacks on almost everything.
As an aside, I’m wondering if maybe the Page of Wands should ask you to teach more than six moves, as a counterbalance to the added flexibility he gives you. Seven? Eight? Then again, you might not have a full party when you draw him, in which case six would already be more moves than another Page would require of you.
See, no problem. Kurt’s off to kick the $#!t out of Team Rocket at the Slowpoke Well, so we shouldn’t have to do-
I guess we’d better draw again and see whether Nadja will be taking on Team Rocket solo.
Judgement: Ongoing: When you draw this card, choose one: you must use Pokémon that are all from the same generation, OR you must use Pokémon that are all from different generations.
“All from different generations” is only very rarely the correct call before Black 2 and White 2 (although I did actually pick it during my Pearl Kingslocke). Pokémon with cross-generation evolutions do get some flexibility – I could count Lil’ Toby as generation II or IV, for instance – but the vast majority of Pokémon in Heart Gold are going to be either generation I or II, so “all from the same generation” is clearly the right choice. I can later change which generation I’m specialising in, and Nadja has a cross-gen evolution herself, so I can decide later whether to stick with I or II depending on my next few draws.
This shouldn’t be too difficult…
Their blood is just so… inviting.
The weird thing about this story, in retrospect, is that later games have made it clear that Slowpoke tails are just… a thing people eat. Slowpoke are one of the few Pokémon that are absolutely kosher for human consumption, because their tails regenerate (as another Grunt here points out) and they’re so dim that they don’t even really experience pain like other Pokémon do. In Sword and Shield you can make a Slowpoke tail curry and feed it to a Slowpoke. It seems pretty obvious here that Team Rocket are ripping people off by charging far more than a Slowpoke tail is actually worth, but it’s not even like they’re a black market foodstuff that can’t be purchased legally.
(anyway, we don’t need Game Freak’s permission to cook and eat Pokémon, but this is one instance where you have it if you want it)
y’know what, it kinda seems like even they think it’s a $#!tty plan. I almost feel sorry for them. Not sorry enough to stop Nadja from feasting upon the rich, molten-ruby life force that fills their fragile mortal frames. Just… y’know. Enough to remark on it briefly as we quietly dump their pale, dry husks behind a boulder where no one will find them.
This is Proton, the first of four named Team Rocket Executives in Heart Gold and Soul Silver (all are named, appropriately, after rockets). Gold, Silver and Crystal had several nameless male “Executives” who all shared one sprite (as well as a single female Executive who appears twice). There are actually no named “villains” in generation II – only the spectre of Giovanni, who never appears in person. This guy in the Slowpoke Well isn’t even an Executive in the original games; he’s just a slightly tougher grunt. I get the feeling that, after Team Galactic’s memorable and eccentric Commanders in Diamond and Pearl, Game Freak didn’t think this was good enough anymore, but also didn’t have a super clear plan for the new characters they created or enough ideas to fill them out. We should probably put a pin in this until we get further into the Team Rocket storyline… but then again, we only meet Proton one more time after this, and I don’t think he says very much.
Nadja would never feast upon another Zubat’s blood. It’s a matter of professional courtesy.
Still allowed to murder them, though.
if this fµ¢£ing thing blows up Nadja, I swear to Bird Jesus…
…I mean, yeah, kinda; I’ve already been told a 10-year-old beat you last time.
Proton’s deal is supposed to be that he’s the nastiest and most brutal member of Team Rocket, which… I guess is reflected by him being in charge of the Slowpoke Well operation? It’s not really worse than the mind control stuff they’re working on at Lake of Rage, but I suppose it is arguably more visceral.
Since we’ve fixed his problem, Kurt is now willing and able to make custom artisanal Pokéballs for us out of apricorns: Fast, Heavy, Friend, Moon, Love, Level and Lure Balls. In the original Gold and Silver several of these were pretty janky. The Moon Ball, for instance, was bugged and therefore got its special catch rate bonus only against Pokémon that evolve using a Burn Heal – a category that, regrettably, includes no Pokémon whatsoever. Some of them… to be honest still have very narrow use-cases even in the remakes, but hey, they’re free, right?
Previously, Kurt could only make one ball a day. In Heart Gold, he can still only work on one colour of Apricorn at a time, but he can do a whole batch at once, so I should be able to get a decent number before finishing up and leaving Azalea Town.
The Slowpoke are restored; all is well. I assume.
All right, Nadja, let’s see what we’re up against in the Azalea Gym.
King – Vessel: Immediate: Choose and box one member of your current team; you may catch a Pokémon of your choice from the current area to replace it OR free a petrified Pokémon of your choice. The boxed team member is placed in the Vessel and cannot be returned to your active party. The Kings are removed from the game after they are drawn; they do not remain in play or return to the deck, and their effects cannot be revoked by other cards. If there are ever four Pokémon in the Vessel, those Pokémon are freed. All four of them become Champions and are compulsory until you either earn your next badge (or complete your next Trial, in Alola) or defeat the Elite Four. All other Pokémon are banned during that time, even other Champions. Afterwards, your Vessel Pokémon remain compulsory, but they are no longer Champions, you may use other Pokémon as well, and these effects can now be removed by anything that can revoke a card effect.
If you’re familiar with the Kingslocke rules already, you know the drill. Nadja, alas, has already gorged herself on so much blood from Team Rocket that she is ready to ascend to a higher plane.
And because this is specifically the King of Cups…
King of Cups: Once you have drawn the King of Cups, for the rest of the game Pokémon that share an egg group with the one sent to the Vessel by this card cannot have their moves locked. If the King of Cups was the last King you drew, your four Vessel Pokémon may be joined by two more Pokémon that could form Lovers-compatible pairs with any two of them; they also become Champions for as long as your Vessel Pokémon do.
In the Advanced Rules, each of the four Kings extends a special benefit to all your Pokémon who share a particular trait with the one placed in the Vessel. In this case, Pokémon from the Flying egg group (like Zubat) will be largely immune to card effects that mess with which moves I’m allowed to use. Whichever King is the last one you find also has an extra special effect that changes how your Vessel team works.
That’s all well and good, but more importantly, Nadja was the only Pokémon I had. The Kings let you catch a Pokémon of your choice to catch the one that gets put into the Vessel, but there are no wild Pokémon in Azalea Gym. This means we need to go back to rule 6 of the basic cardinal rules of the Kingslocke:
If you ever have no usable Pokémon left, you may catch the first wild Pokémon you see in your current location that is usable under your current restrictions. If there are none, you may retrace your steps back through other areas until you find one.
Unless you go fishing (which would carry an unacceptable risk of stranding me with a Magikarp), there are actually only two different Pokémon you can catch down here in Slowpoke Well. The Kingslocke always allows you to skip duplicates when you’re told to “catch the first wild Pokémon you see,” so although Zubat are by far the most common Pokémon in the well, I don’t have to catch one. Tactically speaking I definitely should, considering what’s waiting for me in the gym, but I don’t really want to level-grind another one. And if I do want another Zubat later to replace Nadja, there will probably be more opportunities. Much as this is probably a bad decision over the short term, I’m going to go with…
Farewell, Nadja. It was a brief and… disconcertingly bloody partnership, but ultimately a fruitful one.
So. What the hell can you do?
I… suppose it is appropriate that I’ll be taking on the Azalea Gym with Azalea Town’s emblem Pokémon. And Sassy is a good nature for a Slowpoke, and training in Union Cave should be pretty good once he hits level 11 and learns Water Gun, and he won’t have the awful start that Nadja did.
It’s just… going to take a while. As doing anything with a Slowpoke always does. Not for you, obviously; I’ll spend half an hour or so on this, but for you it will be as if I snapped my fingers and-
I dunno if this is enough to fight Bugsy with, but it’s certainly enough to fight his minions, see how I feel about that, and assess the situation from there.
I don’t even know what an eager Slowpoke looks like, but I appreciate the vote of confidence.
Being alone makes some of these battles a little tricky, but Doc is certainly up to the challenge.
Fun fact: if you have only one Pokémon and run into a pair of trainers who are supposed to challenge you to a double battle, like these twins, they’ll just shrug and let you pass.
Let’s talk about Bugsy.
Bugsy is the Azalea Town gym leader and a Bug-type specialist. He has a Metapod and a Kakuna, and they’re not too much trouble. They aren’t helpless like wild Metapod and Kakuna tend to be; they do have their Caterpie- and Weedle-stage attacks. Still, they’re mostly an inconvenience. The reason Bugsy is scary is his third Pokémon: Scyther. His Scyther is level 17 (up from 16 in the original games), and unlike most gym leaders he doesn’t keep his strongest Pokémon in reserve. Bugsy opens with Scyther and has it do hit-and-run attacks with U-Turn (which is his signature move, the move he’ll give you on a TM if you beat him). If you’re a moron like me, and voluntarily chose to bring a slow Pokémon with a weakness to Bug attacks, you might never be able to land a blow on the thing; it’ll hit Doc hard, then tag out and have Metapod or Kakuna take the counterattack.
After fighting the gym trainers, Doc is close to level 17 and I think it’s worth taking him back out for that last little bit of experience. After that… well… I suppose there is one more really good opportunity to level up and maybe even the odds against that Scyther.
Yes, it’s This Douchebag! He is also here, and also doesn’t like Team Rocket, but I suppose arrived too late to be any help to us.
Oof. I was hoping he’d open with anything else. Curse is brutal when you have no teammates to switch out to; I’ll have to stop and heal Doc every couple of turns even if he doesn’t take any attack damage at all.
What? Why here? You don’t own Azalea Town.
It’s fortunate that Quilava’s attacks aren’t getting through Doc’s high physical defence, but I can’t keep healing this Curse damage much longer. I have to put it to sleep and hope it stays that way.
Phew. And Doc is level 18 now. I don’t feel good about fighting Bugsy, but at least it seems worth trying now.
Silvio’s understanding of “weak” and “strong” seems to be expansive, moralistic and not all that closely related to “strength” in a concrete sense. It’s about the kind of person he thinks you are, not about who is actually stronger in the moment.
Right, let’s get back to the gym and hopefully we can call it a day.
I’m going to make the… perhaps slightly inadvisable decision to use Yawn. If Scyther bounces out, it’s a waste of a turn, but if it stays in, I’m going to need it asleep to put some damage on it.
Okay, this is… better than I thought things might go. How much damage can we do?
Not much… okay, let’s just chip away…
Oh good, healing…
Hmm. Yes. Well. All things considered that could have gone somewhat better. But I suppose this means we get to see the return of the best feature from my Black 2 Kingslocke…
CHRIS IS A USELESS DUMB IDIOT COUNTER: 1
And a new rule of the Third Revised Edition is that you draw another card every time you lose a battle, so…
…okay, maybe more than just one new card… We’ve seen the Seven of Cups before, but just to remind us:
Seven of Cups: Draw until you find two Major Arcana cards or Kings. Follow those cards’ rules and shuffle the other cards you drew back into the deck.
Here we go again.
A… mixed bag, to be sure. Alas, the King of Pentacles means that, like Nadja, Doc is now leaving us for a higher calling. It’s not all bad, though…
King of Pentacles: Once you have drawn the King of Pentacles, for the rest of the game Pokémon whose regional Pokédex numbers end with the same digit as the one sent to the Vessel by this card cannot be banned except by the effect of drawing all four Kings (they may still be petrified). Pokémon with this protection may not take the Knight’s Challenge unless they are the only Pokémon available to do so. If the King of Pentacles was the last King you drew, for the rest of the game, as long as you have one of your Vessel Pokémon with you, whenever you enter a new area, draw two cards and ignore one of them.
Slowpoke’s number in the Johto regional ‘dex is 80, so the King of Pentacles will extend this royal protection to Pokémon whose number is 10, 20, 30, 40 and so on. And, joy of joys…
This actually includes Pidgey, who is number 10 in the Johto ‘dex! Breeze can come with us again! Unfortunately, if she evolves into Pidgeotto, she’ll become number 11 and lose that protection, so she’s stuck as a Pidgey as long as the Tower is still in play. Hopefully, a Pidgey is all we’ll need.
Notably, Breeze is also in the Flying egg group, which means she gets Nadja’s protection as well, but there aren’t actually any cards in play at the moment that she would be protected from.
And the other card I drew was the Star, which is a very good one.
The Star: Immediate: You may acquire one new Pokémon of your choice from any area you have already visited using any mechanic available to you.
The point of this phrasing is to specifically include things like trading or breeding, or really anything else you can think of. If this were 2010 and I were playing this game on my physical Nintendo DS and still had my Poké Walker, that would be a prime candidate; the Poké Walker could get you some interesting stuff that isn’t normally available until much later. Alas, it is not to be. I just have to pick a Pokémon from somewhere I’ve previously been, anywhere I like.
I think the two obvious choices that jump out at me are Mareep (route 32) and Gastly (Sprout Tower). Mareep is a fan favourite and a traditional Johto staple, but I do still have Judgement in play, so I can only use Breeze alongside other generation I Pokémon. That being the case, I think the prudent course is…
Right, well; this obviously isn’t where I hoped to end this segment, but these two are going to need some training before we take another shot at Bugsy, so let’s review.
Here are our cards:
And here… such as it is… is our party:
But I think we should give the final word of the episode to Youngster Joey, who called me while I was in the Sprout Tower: