Pokémon Trading Card Game
Pokémon Trading Card Game logo
(October 1996 – September 2013)
The Pokémon Company
(October 2013 – present)
Wizards of the Coast
(December 1998 – July 2003)
The Pokémon Company International
(July 2003 – present)
|Age range||Targeted towards child audience, competitive play targets all ages|
|Setup time||18–40 seconds|
|Playing time||5–120 minutes|
|Random chance||Some (order of cards drawn, dice, coin flip)|
The Pokémon Trading Card Game (ポケモンカードゲーム Pokemon Kādo Gēmu?, "Pokémon Card Game"), abbreviated as PCG or Pokémon TCG is a collectible card game, based on the Pokémon video game series, first published in October 1996 by Media Factory in Japan. In the US, it was initially published by Wizards of the Coast; Nintendo eventually took over publishing the card game alongside the video games in June 2003.
- 1 Gameplay
- 2 Sets
- 3 Play! Pokémon
- 4 Banned cards
- 5 Media release
- 6 Video games
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
In this game, players take on the role of a Pokémon trainer, using their creatures known as Pokémon to battle. Players play Pokémon to the field and use their attacks to reduce the opponent's HP. When a Pokémon's HP is reduced to 0 it is knocked out and the player who knocked it out takes a Prize card into their hand. (Certain types of cards called Pokémon-EX cards are worth 2 prize cards if they are knocked out. However, they are significantly stronger than normal Pokémon.) A player may win the game in three ways: by collecting all of their prize cards (initially six, but some cards can increase this), if their opponent runs out of Pokémon on the field, or if at the beginning of their opponent's turn there are no cards left to draw in the opponent's deck.
Players begin by shuffling their decks and drawing seven cards. Both players check to make sure they have at least one Basic Pokémon in their hand. If not, they must reshuffle and redraw and the opponent may draw one additional card. Once both players have at least one Basic, they both play one or more Basic Pokémon to their play field, one in the Active spot, and up to five on the "bench" (representing the six maximum carry limit from the video games). Players then take the top six cards of their remaining deck and place them to the side as their Prize Cards and flip a coin (or roll dice) to see who goes first.
Play alternates between players who may take several actions during their turn, including playing new Basic Pokémon, evolving into higher level Pokémon, playing Trainer cards, playing energy (of which one is generally put down; further, it is needed to use most attacks), using non-attack Pokémon abilities, and retreating their active Pokémon. At the end of their turn, a player may use one of their Active Pokémon's attacks, provided the prerequisite amount and types of energy are attached to that Pokémon. Game effects from that attack are activated and damage is put on the defending Pokémon (some attacks simply have game effects but do not do damage). If the damage exceeds the defending Pokémon's HP, it is knocked out (i.e. discarded along with any attached cards) and the active player takes a prize card and ends their turn.
As with almost any card game, the "Golden Rule of Card Games" applies, stating that "whenever a card's text overrides the game rules, the card takes precedence." For example, the game rules state a player may only play one energy card per turn, but several Pokémon abilities allow additional energy to be played if that card is in play.
Basic Pokémon are the basis of all decks (which consist of 60 cards). Without them a player cannot play the game, since both players begin the game by placing a Basic Pokémon in the active position on the playing field. Each Pokémon card depicts a Pokémon from the video games. Each player may have up to six Pokémon on the playing field at a time: one "active" Pokémon and up to five on the bench (these are considered to be in reserve, but they can still affect gameplay). Each Pokémon card has a name, a type, and an amount of Health Points.
All Pokémon feature attacks that deal damage to the opponent's active Pokémon, or occasionally, their benched Pokémon; still others perform different functions, such as manipulating players' possession of cards. The vast majority of these attacks require Energy, which comes in the form of Energy cards, though the occasional Pokémon may have an attack that requires no energy (these attacks typically are weak or perform a function other than damage).
The two types of Pokémon cards are Basic Pokémon and Evolved Pokémon. Basic Pokémon are Pokémon that have not evolved, and can be played directly onto the bench. Each deck must have at least one Basic Pokémon to be considered legal. In contrast, an Evolved Pokémon cannot normally be placed directly onto the field; they must be played on the corresponding lower-stage Pokémon. Stage 1 Pokémon evolve from Basic Pokémon, and Stage 2 Pokémon evolve from Stage 1 Pokémon. As a Pokémon evolves, it gains HP and can use Energy more effectively. Baby Pokémon cards, introduced in Neo Genesis, are a special kind of Basic Pokémon, sometimes distinguished by a Poké-Power called "Baby Evolution". Baby Pokémon have low HP, but their attacks have strange and sometimes very powerful effects. Baby Pokémon with the Kick ability can evolve into another Basic Pokémon, specified on the card. When a Baby Pokémon evolves into what would normally be a Basic Pokémon, that Basic Pokémon counts as being an Evolved Pokémon for the purposes of cards that affect Basic Pokémon and Evolved cards differently. Introduced in XY, Mega Pokémon evolve from Pokémon EX, but are a special stage, and as such effects on Stage 1 Pokémon do not apply to Mega Pokémon and vice versa. Variations of Basic, Evolved, and Baby Pokémon cards have appeared in many sets, usually indicated with a word before or after the Pokémon's name. Secret Rare Pokémon cards are some of the rarest cards. These cards include Pokémon ex, EX, LV.X, Gold Star (cards with a gold star after the name) known better as Shiny Pokémon, Prime cards, Full art cards, Legend cards, and others.
Introduced in EX Ruby and Sapphire were Pokémon ex cards. These cards had one major drawback: when defeated, they gave another prize card in addition to the ordinary prize card. To compensate, these cards were usually very powerful, with more HP and better attacks and abilities. Introduced in EX Team Rocket Returns were Pokémon Star, special alternate colored or "shiny" versions of Pokémon. Only one Pokémon Star was allowed in a deck, but they were much more powerful than their non-Star variants and in addition were always basic.
The Diamond & Pearl set introduced a new type of Pokémon Card, Lv.X cards. Lv.X cards would replace the previous ex cards, but it is still possible to use both. Lv.X's are considered neither Basic Pokémon nor Evolution Cards, but level-up Pokémon Cards, although the level-up mechanic is almost identical to the evolution mechanic. They are placed on the Pokémon Card which the name specifies (i.e.: Lucario to Lucario Lv.X). In turn, though, Lv.X cards are not "named" cards. That means that only four altogether including regular and Lv.X's are allowed. They can also only be placed when the Pokémon is active; players may use all powers and attacks on the Lvl.X card in addition to the powers and attacks printed on the card it was attached to.
HeartGold SoulSilver replaced "Lv.X" cards with Pokémon "Prime", but it is still possible to use both. Prime cards function exactly like any other basic or evolution card, but are generally more powerful and feature a distinct composition style in regard to artwork and are ultra rares. Prime cards are distinguished by a specific silver border foil pattern in spikes.
Also introduced in the HGSS series were Pokémon Legends. These cards depicted legendary Pokémon but were used as a combination of two cards. Initially just Ho-Oh and Lugia, subsequent set Legends depicted two separate Pokémon on each set of cards such as Deoxys/Rayquaza and Entei/Raikou. Because of this, Legend sets depicting two Pokémon have more than one Pokémon type and are worth two prize cards when knocked out.
Pokémon Black and White once again abandoned the previous sets' special cards (Prime and Legend) and introduced Full art cards. These cards have identical stats and abilities as other cards in the set, but have no borders and rather feature art along the entirety of the playing card. Later, Black and White – Next Destinies also brought back EX (not to be confused with Pokémon-ex from EX Ruby & Sapphire) only with legendary Pokémon, until the release of Black and White – Legendary Treasures, which introduced Stage 1 and Stage 2 Pokémon as Basic Pokémon-EX. There were also shiny texture cards that had special numbers to show how rare they were. There were also full art EX's.
Pokémon X and Y introduces Mega Evolutions, which evolve from select EX cards. They include cards such as M-Venusaur-EX and M-Blastoise-EX, which evolves from Venusaur-EX and Blastoise-EX respectively. Mega Evolutions have over 200 HP and 1 move. The illustrations of these cards contain English text in the Japanese versions and Japanese text in the US and international versions. The text is the name of the attack, from the description of the card in the opposite language. Mega Evolution ends the player's turn unless a special Pokémon tool is used, so they cannot attack the same turn they Mega Evolve.
Energy cards are attached to a Pokémon to power attacks and retreats. There are two types of Energy cards: Basic Energy cards and Special Energy cards. There are ten different Basic Energy types: Grass, Fire, Water, Lightning, Psychic, Fighting, Darkness, Metal, Dragon, and Fairy. Darkness and Metal Energy could only be provided through Special Energy cards until the Diamond & Pearl expansion set, where they became Basic Energy types. Basic Energy cards only provide one Energy of the specified type, while Special Energy cards have additional benefits and varying Energy provisions. Additionally, the amount of Basic Energy cards allowed in a deck is unrestricted, while Special Energy cards follow the standard rule restricting the number of cards with the same name in a deck to four.
Some attacks require a certain type and amount of Energy, usually depending on the type of attack and the Pokémon using it. If an attack requires a certain type of Energy, then that type and amount of Energy must be attached to the Pokémon, whereas if the attack has a Colorless Energy requirement, that requirement can be met by any Energy card. Colorless Energy is neither a Basic nor a Special Energy type and can be provided through both Basic and Special Energy cards. However, Double Colorless Energy (released as the first Special Energy in Base Set) can count as only colorless Energy, but provides two Energy at a time. Another type of Special Energy card is Rainbow Energy and Prism Energy. Rainbow Energy provides every type of Energy, but only one Energy type at a time, and also puts 2 damage counter (20 damage) to the Pokémon the card is attached to. Prism Energy, while providing the same benefit as Rainbow Energy, is very different in its own way. Prism Energy does not deal damage to the Pokémon it is attached to, but only provides one type of Energy at a time to Basic Pokémon only. A similar and more recent version of both cards is the Double Dragon Energy, released in the XY: Roaring Skies expansion. It provides every type of Energy, but now only two at a time. The only catch is that it can only be attached to Dragon-type Pokémon.
Trainer cards perform various functions to affect the game. Some can remove damage counters (which you tell how much damage a card has) from Pokémon, remove energy from the opposing Pokémon, or revive Pokémon that have been knocked out. Before the Diamond & Pearl expansion, all cards that were not Pokémon or Energy were considered Trainer cards, though they have since been subdivided into categories: Item cards directly affect the battling Pokémon, Stadium cards represent custom arenas that add a special mechanic to gameplay, and Supporters represent other characters in the Pokémon world.
Most Trainer cards are simply classed as Trainer: Item. The player follows the directions on the card and then usually discards it. They were introduced from the very beginning of the card game's history, with the Base Set. Normal Trainer cards make up the largest number of Trainer cards by far, and can affect any part of the game, including other Trainer cards. They are often illustrated using computer-generated imagery, the most having been done by Keiji Kinebuchi.
Pokémon Tools, a subset of Trainer: Item cards, first appearing in Neo Genesis. They are the card game's equivalent to Pokémon items, objects that Pokémon can carry around and use at will. The Pokémon that can receive the Pokémon Tool is specified on the card, and a Pokémon may not hold more than one at a time. Some Pokémon Tools can stay on the Pokémon until it gets knocked out, whereas some are discarded after a certain condition is met. Like ordinary Trainer cards and Stadium cards, Pokémon Tools are illustrated in CGI, mostly by Keiji Kinebuchi and Ryo Ueda. While Technical Machines can be considered a subdivision of Pokémon Tools, they are worded as a separate category. These are the most recently introduced of the current kinds of Trainer cards, starting in the Expedition set. Technical Machines, like Pokémon Tools, are attached to a Pokémon and either stay with the Pokémon until it gets knocked out, or are discarded after a certain condition is met. However, a Technical Machine will always have an attack as its text, and as long as the Pokémon holds the Technical Machine, it can use the attack provided on the Technical Machine instead of its normal attack. Illustrations for Technical Machines were once the domain of "Big Mama" Tagawa, but they are now exclusively done by Mitsuhiro Arita.
The first Stadium cards were from the Gym Heroes set. They initially were all themed on Pokémon Gyms and would benefit the Gym Leader. Later Stadium cards became locations within the Pokémon video games and sometimes areas completely original to the card game. Unlike other Trainer cards, Stadium cards stay on the field once played, unless another Stadium card is played or something happens that requires the Stadium card to be discarded. Stadium cards always provide the same effect to each player. Stadium cards are predominantly CGI (a few are hand-illustrated) and were once in the domain of Keiji Kinebuchi. Ryo Ueda now illustrates most of them.
Supporter cards were introduced in the Expedition Base Set. Normal Trainer cards themed on Pokémon characters have since been assigned to Supporter cards instead. They are substantially more powerful than Trainer cards, but only one can be played per turn (as opposed to normal Trainers, which have no limit). Supporter cards tend to interact with the deck, such as finding a card of the player's choice from the deck and putting it in play. Because they feature Pokémon characters, the dominant artist for Supporter cards is Ken Sugimori, who designed the characters in the video games and anime. The illustrations for Supporter cards are always hand-drawn.
With the release of the first "Black and White" based TCG expansion, all Trainer, Supporter and Stadium cards have been brought back together under the Trainer Card designation. Each different type of card is marked as a Trainer, then marked with a sub-type; Trainer: Item (what would have previously been a "Trainer" card), Trainer: Supporter and Trainer: Stadium. All card rules are the same, namely only being able to play one Trainer: Supporter per turn and the Stadium rules for Trainer: Stadium.
Ace Spec cards, another subset of Trainer: Item cards, were introduced in the Black & White-Boundaries Crossed expansion. These cards have very powerful effects such as letting the player search his deck for any card he wants or giving certain Pokémon more attack power. However, because of these effects, the player can only have 1 Ace Spec card total in his deck.
There are also some cards that are two card types in one card. Examples include the "Clefairy Doll" Trainer card in the Base Set, which can be played as a Pokémon card, or special Pokémon that can, rather than battle, be attached to other Pokémon as Energy cards (Such as Holon cards). Certain Unown cards are both Pokémon and Pokémon Tools.
Fossil cards were first introduced in the Fossil expansion on October 8, 1999, though only Mysterious Fossil was introduced then and would be the only Fossil card until 2003, when it was joined by Root Fossil, Dome Fossil and Armored Fossil. Fossil cards are counted as Trainer cards while in the deck or in the player's hand, but when put into play, they also count as a Basic Pokémon. All Fossil cards in play count as the Colorless type. Certain Pokémon are required to evolve from these fossils except under special circumstances. For example, Kabuto, Omanyte, and Aerodactyl must evolve from a Mysterious Fossil card. Older Fossil cards were illustrated by Keiji Kinebuchi; newer ones are illustrated by Ryo Ueda. Beginning with the 4th Japanese Black and White set, Fossil cards are played differently. Rather than evolving from the player's hand, a Player may look at a number of cards from the bottom of their deck and if they find the required Pokémon may play it to their bench.
Pokémon with more than one type were in the Delta TCG sets. These Pokémon were two different types. They also had abnormal types. For example, a Pokémon that would normally be a Fighting type may be a Fire type in the Delta species. Dual type Pokémon were reintroduced in the second HGSS set, HGSS:Undaunted, in the form of Pokémon Legend cards.
ex, EX, LV.X and Break Evolution Cards
Pokémon ex cards were first introduced in the TCG set: EX Ruby and Sapphire, and typically had higher Hit Points than other Pokémon, yet gave an extra prize card to the opponent upon their being defeated. These could be regular Pokémon as ex cards, like Hitmonchan ex and Chansey ex, or legendary Pokémon, such as Kyogre ex.
The Pokémon Company stopped making ex cards in the set: EX Power Keepers, and introduced Pokémon LV.X, which usually had higher hit points and better Poké-Powers and Poké-Bodies, such as Dusknoir LV.X, Mewtwo LV.X, or Heatran LV.X. These LV.X cards were treated as level-up cards, which behaved very similarly to evolution, although only the active Pokémon could be leveled up. These Pokémon leveled up from their regular variants. Furthermore, these cards could use the Poké-powers, Poké-bodies, and attacks of their un-leveled up form. Finally, unlike ex cards, the LV.X did not count as part of the name, meaning you could not have, for example, 4 Honchkrow and 4 Honchkrow LV.X in a deck. Later, they started making EX cards again (not to be confused with ex cards—the older non capitalized version) starting in the set: Black and White: Next Destinies. The new EX cards are all basic, are not all legendary Pokémon, and have great attacks like Rayquaza EX's Dragon Burst, abilities with above average potential like Lugia EX's Overflow, and higher Hit Points.
To be released in the XY—BREAKthrough expansion on November 4, 2015, Break Evolution cards are just like LV. X cards from Generation 4. Break Evolution cards are used to add additional attacks and HP to the current Pokémon. As well, Poké-Powers and Poké-Bodies can be used from their un-leveled form.
A simplified type system was used for the trading card game. Instead of 18 types of Pokémon, only eleven exist. Seven were in the Base Set, Darkness and Metal types appeared when Pokémon Gold and Silver introduced the Dark and Steel types in the video games, and the Dragon type was introduced in the Japanese Dragon Selection set. Finally, the Fairy type was introduced in the Japanese XY set to correspond to its introduction in-game. The types usually follow this pattern:
|Psychic||Purple||Psychic, Ghost, Poison1|
|Fighting||Brown/Orange||Fighting, Rock, Ground|
|Colorless||White||Normal, Flying, 2|
- 1^ Starting with the Diamond & Pearl expansion, Poison-type Pokémon in-game are now Psychic; they were previously Grass.
- 2^ Starting with the Black & White expansion set Dragon Selection, Dragon-type Pokémon in-game are now Dragon; they were previously part of Colorless.
Most Pokémon have only one type. However, EX Team Magma vs Team Aqua introduced Dual-type Pokémon, which have two different types. All existing Dual-type cards have either Darkness or Metal as their secondary type, with the exception of certain Pokémon cards with the Dual Armor Poké-Body, such as Medicham from the EX Crystal Guardians expansion, which can have multiple types when certain energy are attached.
Weakness and resistance are determined by the type of the attacking Pokémon (unlike the video game series, where they are determined by the type of the attack used). In older sets, Pokémon that are weak to another type take twice the base damage in an attack, while resistance decreases attack damage by 30 points. However, starting in the Diamond & Pearl expansion, Pokémon cards state how much more or less damage they take from an opponent’s attack if weakness or resistance applies. If an older card is Modified-legal (meaning that there has been a reprint in the current Modified format), the newer card is used as a reference, even if the older card is being played.
If a Pokémon has two types, both of those types are calculated as far as weakness and resistance are concerned. For example, if a Pokémon has weakness to two types, and a Pokémon that is both of those types attacks, that attack will do four times its normal damage.
The Pokémon Platinum Base Set introduced Pokémon SP cards, a variant of trainer specific Pokémon cards from older sets, that reintroduced the 'double damage' weakness standard from older sets without a base number next to the type weakness while adding an actual 'x2' to avoid confusion by newer players (For example, Infernape SP has a weakness of 'Water x2', meaning a Water attack that deals 30 points of damage deals 60 instead). Only Pokémon SP cards would maintain this 'double damage' standard, while remaining non-SP Pokémon would simply have normal weakness calculations. With the introduction of the HeartGold/SoulSilver Base Set in 2010, all weaknesses on Pokémon cards revert to taking twice the damage, with the same 'x2' written next to each weakness. Similarly, the second set under this block, HS Unleashed, also reintroduces the concept of dual-type Pokémon cards–in this case, the LEGENDS cards for the three legendary beasts of the Johto region Suicune, Raikou, and Entei. Each LEGENDS 'pair' features two of the three beasts battling together, giving each card dual-types and therefore double damage.
With the release of XY7: Bandit Ring in Japan on March 15, 2015, there are currently 63 different Pokémon TCG sets released in English and 60 released in Japanese. These sets have a vast range of sizes, from Fossil (the smallest at 62 cards), to Aquapolis (the largest, at 186 cards). Only ten of these sets (Black and White – Boundaries Crossed and all subsequent sets) are legal in the current Modified Format, under which all major tournaments are played. A rarely played format is Unlimited, in which all cards released in English are legal (except oversized cards, such as large box topper cards, and banned cards including Ancient Mew, _______'s Pikachu, and Neo-Genesis Sneasel).
Early in the game, sets were released in seemingly random intervals, but ever since Nintendo took over the production of the sets, there has been a constant stream of four sets per year, released at 2.5 to 3.5 month intervals (February, May, August, October/November).
The current 63 released expansions are:
|Expansion Base Set||Expansion Subset|
|Legendary Collection||110 cards|
|Expedition Base Set||165 cards|
|EX||EX Ruby And Sapphire|
|EX Team Magma vs Team Aqua|
|EX Hidden Legends|
|EX FireRed And LeafGreen|
|EX Team Rocket Returns|
|EX Unseen Forces|
|EX Delta Species|
|EX Legend Maker|
|EX Holon Phantoms|
|EX Crystal Guardians|
|EX Dragon Frontiers|
|EX Power Keepers|
|Diamond & Pearl Base Set||Diamond & Pearl - Mysterious Treasures|
|Diamond & Pearl - Secret Wonders|
|Diamond & Pearl - Great Encounters|
|Diamond & Pearl - Majestic Dawn|
|Diamond & Pearl - Legends Awakened|
|Diamond & Pearl - Stormfront|
|Platinum Base Set||Platinum - Rising Rivals|
|Platinum - Supreme Victors|
|Platinum - Arceus|
|HeartGold and SoulSilver Base Set||HeartGold and SoulSilver - Unleashed|
|HeartGold and SoulSilver - Undaunted|
|HeartGold and Soulsilver - Triumphant|
|Call of Legends||106 cards|
|Black and White Base Set||Black and White - Emerging Powers|
|Black and White - Noble Victories|
|Black and White - Next Destinies|
|Black and White - Dark Explorers|
|Black and White - Dragons Exalted|
|Black and White - Boundaries Crossed|
|Black and White - Plasma Storm|
|Black and White - Plasma Freeze|
|Black and White - Plasma Blast|
|Black and White - Dragon Vault (mini set)|
|Black and White - Legendary Treasures (from The Japanese Shiny Collection and EX Battle Boost sets)|
|XY Base Set||Flashfire|
Every few sets, new types of cards are introduced to the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Several of these include: Dark Pokémon (Team Rocket); Owners' Pokémon and Stadium cards (Gym Heroes); Darkness-type and Metal-type Pokémon, the second generation, and Pokémon Tools (Neo Genesis); Shining Pokémon (Neo Revelation); Light Pokémon (Neo Destiny); Supporter cards and Technical Machines (Expedition); Crystal-type Pokémon (Aquapolis); Pokémon-ex (EX Ruby & Sapphire); Dual-type Pokémon (EX Team Magma vs Team Aqua); Pokémon Star (EX Team Rocket Returns); Delta Species Pokémon and Holon's Pokémon (EX Delta Species); Pokémon LV.X, the separation of Trainer, Supporter and Stadium cards, and the addition of Metal and Darkness as Basic Energy types (Diamond and Pearl); Pokémon With Items (Mysterious Treasures); Trainer cards of which two can be played at once (Stormfront); owner-specific Pokémon SP (Platinum), Pokémon LEGEND (HeartGold and SoulSilver Collection), Pokémon PRIME which replace Pokémon Lv. X ("HeartGold and SoulSilver Collection"), Full Art cards (Black and White), and Dragon-type Pokémon. These changes, along with yearly format rotations, make for a constantly evolving game.
In addition to the collectible aspect of the card game, The Pokémon Company International (formerly known as Pokémon USA) has also created Play! Pokémon, formerly known as Pokémon Organized Play (POP), which is in charge of the organization of an official League program, where players can battle others in local environments and earn player points, two-card booster packets from a promotional set, badges, stickers and other materials. These are run by League leaders and owners. POP also runs a professor program, in which individuals age 18 or over may become a professor, who can sanction and run tournaments and leagues.
A League Leader may assist in organizing the league, while a League Owner is the one officially in charge of the league, reporting to the Organized Play program any results and/or problems every seven weeks. The leagues run in yearly cycles, based on a certain aspect of one of the Pokémon Game Boy or DS games: the current cycle is based upon the Energy types.
Prerelease tournaments are organized just before each set is released. Usually, they are run on the two weekends before a set is released in stores to the public. At prereleases players are given booster packs from the judge and must construct a 40 card deck, with only 4 prize cards, using only the cards pulled from the packs and the judges provide the energy, but not special energy cards.
Many fans have come up with alternative methods of playing the Trading Card Game. Certain websites such as PokéCap are dedicated to providing players with a new twist to their card game with new game rules they can follow. New methods may be based more on the video game adaptations of Pokémon or the Pokémon television show.
Players in a tournament are split into three age categories: Junior (born in 2003 or later), Senior (born in 2000-2002), and Master (born in 1999 or earlier). Notable references include: Austin Brewen who won the first junior tournament, Brenden Zhang who won the first Senior Tournament, and Arturo Heras who won the first Master Tournament. These tournaments play a number of rounds, where players will play a standard game against each other and wins and losses will be recorded. In most tournaments, there are a number of Swiss-style rounds where players are paired up against others of similar win/loss ratios, usually from their own age group (this does not always occur in smaller events, though). Afterwards, there will either be a cut of the top record-holders (approximately the top 1/8 of participants) where players will play best two out of three matches, and the loser gets eliminated (standard tournament bracket style), with an eventual winner.
POP runs a season for these tournaments, which allows players to earn larger prizes and play in a more competitive environment in comparison to League. These range from City and State Championships, all the way up to the Pokémon World Championships, the single invite-only event of the year. Players can earn invites to the World Championships by winning or ranking high at National Championships, doing well at tournaments to get Championship Points, or by qualifying in the Last Chance Qualifier. The World Championships is a three-day tournament, with one eventual winner in each age group; the winner of the Masters Division age group is generally noticed as the best player in the world for that season.
Some of these methods are only used in the USA, as PUI and POP are based in the USA, but they are represented by local distributors who provide the Organized Play program to their own country.
Decks in Competitive Play
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Over the different generations, and tournament formats, there have been several main stars when it comes to decks. During the first and second generations, the Haymaker deck consisting of Hitmonchan, Electabuzz, Magmar, and sometimes Scyther. Ideally, it would start with one of those three Pokémon, then one would play Trainer and Energy cards to get the upper hand. In the current format "Vileplume/Giratina", "Seismitoad/Crobat", "Riachu/Crobat", "Vespiquen", and "Bronzong/Rayquaza" are a few decks currently being used in competitive play, each with varying strategies, advantages and disadvantages. Information of up to date and recent decks can be found on most Pokémon websites, such as heytrainer.org or sixprizes.com. In order to win, the player must be aware of the popular and strong decks currently being played, or the "metagame." The player can then make counters to specific archetypes, or decks, so he will have the advantage over his opponent.
Competitive play features card rotation, in which certain cards become unusable in competitive play. This is done by series, and forces players to mix up their strategies. This has the biggest impact of removing trainer cards, which are just as big of a focus as Pokémon in competitive play. A notable example being the Gust of Wind card, which swapped the active Pokémon of the opponent with a Pokémon on their bench of the user's choice. This card was wildly popular, but once it was removed players had to modify their decks. A card was later released with the same effect titled Pokémon Catcher that was used in almost every competitive deck until it received and errata making it rely on a coin flip to activate. Also when EXPokémon came out, they were also inserted in decks and are still a major force of the metagame.
Major tournaments under Wizards of the Coast
Tropical Mega Battle
On August 26–27, 2000, forty-two Pokémon trainers from around the world met at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu for the Tropical Mega Battle, an international communication event for the Pokémon Trading Card Game. The Tropical Mega Battle brought together children aged 14 and under from the United States, Japan, France, Italy, Canada, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, for two days in Honolulu, Hawaii. Children participating in the Tropical Mega Battle received invitations through Qualifier tournaments, DCI rankings, and other events in their respective countries.
- Events throughout the weekend included competitions facilitated by translators for groups of children representing two different languages in each group; a group photo and an opening ceremony featuring remarks from Hawaiian government officials; and a harbor cruise awards ceremony for the winners of the World Communication Match. Jason Klaczynski, 14-year-old Orland Park, Ill., resident, was honored as the Master Trainer of the Tropical Mega Battle after winning the final round of the World Communication Match against fellow Pokémon trainer Toshiya Tanabe of Sapporo, Japan.
Super Trainer Showdown
- The Super Trainer Showdowns were large Pokémon TCG tournaments held in the United States by Wizards of the Coast between 2000 and 2001. The tournaments were open to the public. Each tournament consisted of three age groups; 10 and under, 11 to 14 years old, and 15 years old and over. Each Super Trainer Showdown was preceded by a series of Qualifier Tournaments held in cities around the United States and abroad in which players in the 11-to-14 and 10-and-under age groups could win trips for themselves and a parent or guardian to the Super Trainer Showdown event. To date, there have been four Super Trainer Showdowns.
The first Super Trainer Showdown was held in Long Beach, California inside of the cruise liner, the Queen Mary on July 22, 2000. The format was unlimited, meaning that all Pokémon cards released in the United States were legal for deck construction. The winners were Joseph Viray, Jack Savage, Wesley Hsu, Dan Bigman and Andrew Marshall.
The second Super Trainer Showdown was held at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, NJ on November 18, 2000. There were over 700 players in all three age divisions competing for the title. The tournament was eight rounds of Swiss style pairings followed by a cut to a top-eight single-elimination playoff. All games were best-of-one. The format was titled “15/3” in that players were allowed to construct 60-card decks using only fifteen “Trainer” cards and only three of any one card, save basic Energy Cards. Jonathan Brooks, Lauren Bole, Rudy Rodriguez, Wesley Hsu, and Tom Hanley were the event champions.
The third Super Trainer Showdown was held again in the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, New Jersey. It was held on June 23–24, 2001 and more than 1,600 players attended the event. The format for this event was titled “Modified” and allowed players to construct 60-card decks using a maximum of four of any card other than basic energy from the sets Team Rocket, Gym Heroes, Gym Challenge, and Neo Genesis. The card “Sneasel” from the Neo Genesis set was banned from play. The event ran for 2 days, with 3 champions name each day. Paul Lamancusa, Jonathan Brooks, Lauren Bole, Josh Goldstein, Phil Mondiello, Tom Liesegang, Jeremy Borchardt, Wesley Hsu, and Tom Hanley were the winners.
The fourth and final Super Trainer Showdown was held at the San Antonio Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas on December 1–2, 2004. The format was again "Modified", however the newest set Neo Discovery was also legal for the tournament. The card “Sneasel” was again disallowed from play. This year's champions included Michael Perucca, Eric Brooks, David Bui, Seena Ghaziaskar, Robert Frac, Wesley Hsu, Anirudh Shankar and Matthew Moss.
Competitive play outside of the United States
Although TPCI tries to keep Organized Play as equal as possible all over the Earth, there are some notable differences in how POP is run outside of the USA.
Pokémon Card Laboratory (PCL)
The Pokémon Card Laboratory (PCL), located in Japan, is the designer of new cards and the ultimate authority on any matter relating to the Pokémon Trading Card Game. It can declare rulings on any in-game circumstance, issue errata, change card text after publishing, and change the basic game rules, although the latter three rarely occur. PCL runs Organized Play in Japan.
Pokémon in Europe
The Pokémon Trading Card Game in most European countries is currently handled by The Pokémon Company International. Certain countries have no direct official presence; in these regions, distributors of the game run tournaments.
European countries are able to qualify for positions at the Pokémon Trading Card Game World Championships each year, through National Championships and European Rankings.
Banned by WotC
A few cards were banned from both general play and Modified Format under Wizards of the Coast. After the license transferred to TPCi, these bans were overturned.
- The first card to be banned was Sneasel from the Neo Genesis set. Decks with Sneasel were winning almost every major tournament, making all other decks uncompetitive. Sneasel's ability to use the new Darkness Energy cards (which increase the power of all Dark-type attacks by 10), no weakness, free retreat cost, quickly powered-up attacks and ability to do enormous damage made it an outstanding card; in short, it was faster and more powerful than any other card in the game at the time. It was banned beginning with the 2001 Super Trainer Showdown, for which WotC produced giant Sneasel cards with "Banned at the STS" printed on them. Sneasel was reprinted in HS Undaunted, featuring changes to Weakness and Resistance.
- The only other banned card printed in a normal set was also from Neo Genesis. Slowking had a Pokémon Power that allowed its user to flip a coin whenever the opponent played a Trainer card; if that coin was heads, the Trainer card would return to the top of the user's deck without affecting the game. In the Japanese version of the card, this Power could only be used while Slowking was active; however, an incorrect translation in the English version of the card allowed for the Power to be used while Slowking was benched - and also cumulatively, meaning players could flip a coin for each Slowking they had in play every time their opponent played a Trainer card, and if even one were heads, that card would have no effect. While the Japanese version of the card was barely playable (Slowking is not a good attacker, and is easily KO'ed when active), the English version was too powerful because a player could place one or more Slowking on the bench to prevent the opponent from playing any Trainer cards and still play a stronger Pokémon as the active Pokémon. Slowking dominated the 2002 World Championship (the only World Championship not run by PUI) and, as a result, WotC announced that the card was no longer legal for any format as of January 1, 2003.
- Birthday's Pikachu
- Birthday's Pikachu (commonly known as "Birthday Pikachu") was Promo Card number 24 printed by WotC. The effect of its attack, Birthday Surprise, says, "...if it is your birthday, flip a coin. If heads, this attack does 30 damage plus 50 more damage...". WotC banned this card quickly after its release, since there was no quick, easy way to check if it was actually someone's birthday whenever he or she attacked with the card. Disproving liars who wanted to do a lot of damage for a few energy turned out to require much more effort than it was worth. The Japanese version of the card has red text in the margin stating its illegality; it was one of the few Japanese cards with this message that was produced in English, most likely because of its immense popularity with collectors.
- Ancient Mew
- Ancient Mew was never truly banned, as it wasn't ever intended for sanctioned play. The card's backing differed from all other cards (and so would be instantly recognizable inside a deck), and the card was in a runic language. Translated from the runic letters, however, the card contains all content needed for a Pokémon card.
The bans that WotC placed were removed when Pokémon Organized Play took over the game. Their only limitation is that cards must have the normal card backing to be playable. In addition, the cards printed in the promotional World Championship Decks are not allowed in any competitive events. These cards are printed as promotional items and do not have the collection value that regularly printed editions have.
Banned by TPCi
- Lysandre's Trump Card
- On June 1, 2015, TPCi banned Phantom Forces' Lysandre's Trump Card from sanctioned tournaments. By returning the cards in both players' discard piles (except itself) to their respective decks, it practically eliminated the possibility of losing by deck-out, greatly reducing this side effect of having lots of ways of drawing. It also extended the playing time - an effect that could be unfair in official tournaments, which have time-limited matches - and provided a way to make a large number of discarded powerful Trainer cards available again at once. It was the first TPCi-banned card and the first Trainer card to be banned.
Shiftry (Black & White—Next Destinies, 72/99): As of September 1, 2015, Shiftry was banned from all sanctioned Play! Pokémon tournaments that use the Expanded format. This card has created an undesirable play environment because it: Creates a strategy that frequently wins on the first turn of the game and it creates a non-interactive play environment where the opponent has little impact on the outcome of the match. Shiftry has the ability to cause the opponents Pokémon to go back into the deck if all of the Pokémon go back into the deck the player who still has Pokémon on his or her side of the playing field wins
Burger King restaurants worldwide sold BK Meals with Pokémon toys that are a total of 12 cards and accessories combined. Announced on June 10, 2008, the toys were released at participating Burger Kings on July 7, 2008.
A misprint in 2002 by WotC caused the English translated Mew to halt in production, several were produced but it was banned as a precaution. This was later remedied and the misprinted card was branded as a collectible. It had only participated in one minor tournament.
There are a few video games based on the card game.
Pokémon TCG Online is the official digital version of the card game available for Microsoft Windows, OS X and iPad. It was originally released in April 2011 as Pokémon Trainer Challenge. The game initially offered three starting decks, and featured more content after release. After April 6, 2011, players could buy cards from the Black and White series, which have a code to be digitally represented. Players can also create a custom avatar. There were booster pack codes which allow booster packs up to Black and White-Boundaries Crossed, to be purchased from the online shop. However, as of Black and White- Plasma Storm, the code card within booster packs directly redeem as online booster packs of their respective set. GamesRadar praised the game, stating "Everything looks to be faithfully recreated, including the card mat, prize card layout, and even coins."
The eponymously titled Pokémon Trading Card Game, known as Pokémon Card GB in Japan, was developed for the Game Boy Color, releasing in Japan in December 1998 and later in North America and Europe in 2000. The game is based on the rules of the card game and features 226 cards from the game, as well as infrared linking for multiplayer and trading. The game was rereleased for the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console in 2014. A sequel, Pokémon Card GB2: Great Rocket-Dan Sanjō! was released exclusively in Japan in March 2001.
- List of Pokémon Trading Card Game sets
- Pokémon Organized Play
- Pokémon Trading Card Game (video game)
- Obake karuta
- Gourley, Brent. "Pokemon Break Evolution". Brent's Cards And Coins. Retrieved 2015-09-28.
- Kane, Gordon (November 2000). "The Scene on the Queen". Pojo's Unofficial Pokémon News & Price Guide Monthly 2 (1): 60–66
- Beckett Pokémon Unofficial Collector
- "Pokemon TCG Online now available for iPad users in North America". Tech Times.
- Matthew Kato (February 15, 2011). "Online Battles Start With Pokémon Trainer Challenge - News - www.GameInformer.com". Retrieved 2011-02-15.
- Mark Raby (Feb 16, 2011). "Pokémon trading cards getting free browser-based game, Pokemon Black / White DS News". GamesRadar. Retrieved 2011-02-22.
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Official Pokémon TCG sites
- Official Japanese Pokémon TCG website (Japanese)
- Official Pokémon CG website (Japanese)
- Official Pokémon TCG website
- TCG Online website
- Official Pokémon website
Pokémon TCG fansites
- PokéBeach The largest Pokémon TCG website, with news, strategy articles, card scans, card translations, online tournaments, a fan-made Pokémon TCG simulator, a card search, and a forum for discussion, tournaments, and trading.
- Pokepedia A Pokémon TCG database with a decklist builder, trader base, and event mapper.
- Bulbapedia Pokémon Trading Card Game on Bulbapedia, a Pokémon Wiki
- SixPrizes A Pokémon TCG strategy blog and forum.