Pokémon: How to check Prize cards effectively

Today we are going to be covering a very fundamental skill for the Pokémon TCG. One that is often overlooked and can make the difference between winning or losing a game. I am of course talking about Prize-checking. If you are an experienced player, chances are that you already do everything that is mentioned here in the article. But I know many people that have been playing the game for many years and still make mistakes when it comes to having in mind the Prize cards. So, without further ado, let’s get into it!

Pokémon: Why is it crucial to check your Prizes?

Again, for some of you this might feel like stating the obvious, but I cannot stress this enough: Checking Prizes is a skill and, as with every aspect of your game, you need to polish it if you want to reach the top.

When you start a new Pokémon game, there are 6 cards to which you won’t be able to have access during most turns of the game. If you don’t pay attention to it and just assume that every resource you need is there in your deck, you might get into a very difficult situation. Being able to identify straight away what is available and what is not will help you define a very effective gameplan. 

For example, let’s assume that you see that your lone copy of Boss Orders is prized. Instead of going for a normal gameplan where you can target V Pokémon on your opponent game to finish off the game, you might need to focus on playing more aggressively and try to power up your Pokémon so you can deal with your opponent's active Pokémon, as this will be the only way to progress. 

If you have done your homework and correctly built your deck, you probably have a very consistent deck that can perform very well even in the worst circumstances, but sometimes that alone if not enough. Lost Box decks for example are probably the strategy that requires you to know every card by heart because sending the wrong card to the discard pile will lead you to a loss.

Pokémon: Prize-checking practices

So, here are some Prize-checking best practices I want to share with you.

  • Take your time. This is the biggest mistake I see people make and the most common one. They want to start playing as soon as possible and get their game going so they feel that checking Prize cards is not as important as setting up for your first turn, but in reality it is. Remember that you are legally allowed to look at your deck for 60 seconds during your first deck search. Use that time wisely to see what is in there and what is not. 
  • Don’t try to check everything unless you have to. As I stated before, you will normally run different copies of the same card in a deck, whether that is a Pokémon, a supporter or energies. In most of the situations you can just take a quick glance just to discard extreme possibilities like, say, all your 3 copies of Lugia VSTAR having gotten prized with the subsequent consequence of you not being able to play your deck. Checking and trying to identify all your 60 cards is exhausting and you might run out of time so, instead, try focusing on the following: 
  1. Check one-offs. This is very important especially in the case of Pokémon lines. If you run a 1-1 evolution line of a Pokémon and one of the pieces in Prizes, then you need to mentally discard the possibility of playing it during the game. But there are many one-offs that you might have included as a tech card to have a better pairing against a particular deck so knowing from the start if you will be able to play that card or not might radically change the way in which you approach the way. 
  2. Check the cards that are essential to your strategy. This is non negotiable. For example, if your deck revolves around setting up a specific Pokémon and all the lines are Prizes, you might want to scoop up before even playing the game, as harsh as this might sound. Or for instance, imagine that you are playing Mew and you only run 3 copies of Mew VMAX. If you happen to have prized 2 copies (which is something that happens a lot to me) then you can’t, under any circumstances, discard the last copy from your hand. 
  3. Check the cards that you are most likely to use in a game. For example, as I explained above, Boss Orders is a card that defines how a game goes and it is very usual that every player plays between 1 and 2 copies of each game, sometimes even more. Having that information available is very important to know the amount of risks you can take and what resources you can send to the discard pile.
  • Don’t panic if you don’t have time to search for everything in the first search. You will have 60 seconds to go over your deck until your opponent will be able to raise a slow-play complaint. For some people, this might not be enough time, especially for new players. In this situation, don’t panic. Pokémon is a game where you have opportunities almost every turn to check your deck so you can always confirm things later. As I said before, focus on what is important and then use your following searches to get a better mental map of what is there. 
  • Use notes. This is something that, traditionally, has not been very common in the Pokémon TCG space but recently I’ve seen some pro-players advocating for it and I think it is great. You are allowed to take notes during a game and this happens to be the easiest way to keep track of what is in your Prize cards. I would strongly advise to get some Digital Live Pads from Ultime Guard, as you don’t need to waste a new sheet of paper every time. 

So, all in all, I would say that Prize-checking is something that for sure requires mastering but is totally worth it. This is what separates good from professional players so don’t be afraid to start exercising this ability, whether you are playing a local tournament or even playtesting with your friends. Believe me, you will thank me later. Thanks for reading!

Author: Elena (Gaia Storm)

Elena has been playing Pokémon Trading Card Game since 2011 and has never stopped. With her partner, she runs Gaia Storm, one of the largest Pokémon TCG Youtube channels in the world. She has a problem remembering the names of all the Pokémon but tends to open the most broken Pokémon packs.