A Unique Game to Catch them all

Hello everyone! My name is Elena and I am so, so excited to be here in the amazing Ultimate Guard Blog. As this is going to be the first of many articles, allow me to briefly introduce myself. I have been playing Trading Card Games for more than a decade now. I started with Yu-gi-oh! (which will always be the game of my heart) until I decided after a couple of years to try Pokémon. Back in my early days, Pokémon was not a popular Trading Card Game at all and we had a very small community.

But you all know that Pokémon is probably one of the biggest franchises in the world and the game has experienced a massive, massive growth specially over the last few years. So you, player, might be thinking… is the game good enough? How does one play Pokémon TCG? Perfect, because you’ve come to the right place!

Let’s see some of the elements that make Pokémon a very different card game:

1. You don’t have access to all your cards when you start the game

To me, that is the most unique aspect that you can find in Pokémon TCG. When you first start your game, after you draw your opening 7 cards, you need to place - without looking- the top 6 cards of your deck in a special zone called “The prizes zone”. Your prices remain face down during the rest of the game. Each time to KO a Pokémon from your opponent, you can take one prize card until you get all and win the game. So, in essence, what happens is that there are 6 random cards from your deck (a 10% of your total cards) you won’t be able to use.

Of course, this has massive implications for deckbuilding. Most decks don’t want to risk the possibility of running just one copy of a specific card for fear that it might end up in the prizes zone during a crucial game. And in case you are wondering, yes, if you are really, really unlucky, you might not even be able to execute your strategy properly because most of your key pieces are prized! But hey, the same happens to your opponent and if you want to play safe, there are cards that can interact with your prizes so not all is lost.  

2. There is no interaction between turns

As someone that has played Yu-gi-oh! a lot, to me that was one of my biggest struggles. Just sitting down and waiting for my opponent to end the turn without being able to do a thing used to drive me crazy but this is one of the most iconics elements of Pokémon TCG. Of course, there are still abilities and cards that have an effect or that are automatically triggered when it is not your turn but this is more like a continuous kind of effect than an interaction.

As such, you really need to play your turn thinking in advance. For example, while in Magic you can leave some lands untapped to cast a counter if needed, in Pokémon you will need to consider if it is possible that your opponents has X and Y in their following turn and maybe play down a card to the field straight away to shield yourself.

3. You are constantly drawing cards like crazy

This is probably going to blow your mind if you’ve never played Pokémon before. Drawing cards is the most broken action in any trading card game up to the point that drawing engines are often limited or forbidden. In Pokémon, however, you are basically required to draw turn after turn. Why? You need to be always attacking with your Pokémon but in order to do so you need to spend “energy cards” on them (energies are kind of like mana). If a Pokémon falls, you need to be able to find the replacement plus the corresponding energies. Drawing is therefore key to access your resources and all decks al focussed to draw consistently every turn.

And if you are wondering, no, decking yourself out is not a problem, there are many ways to avoid it!

4. Sequencing is the key

Because of the amount of cards you are always getting (maybe around 10 per turn in a Standard deck?) sequencing well is the most important part of the game. If you want to access your resources, evolve your Pokémon and get energies on the field, you need to make sure you are maximizing the chances of drawing into what you need every turn. This is also a consequence of the generic searchers available. 

Most of your turns you will need to play down your searching cards in a specific order so that when you play the drawing card of your turn, you have the maximum number of copies of a certain card left in your deck.

5. No side, no extra deck but you can be forced to mulligan your hand

Lastly, this is something I want to point out. There is no possibility to side against bad match ups. It is what it is, so all you can do is to build a deck that is as consistent as possible and pray that if you are playing a Fire deck you don’t run into many Water strategies during the tournament.

It is true, however, that you can be forced to mulligan your hand away. In order to play the game, you need to open with at least one Basic Pokémon in your starting hand. If you don’t find one, you have to show your hand to your opponent and shuffle again.

Honestly, Pokémon Trading Card Game is a very different game to others you’ve played. Something I really like about it is that while its basic rules are not very difficult to learn, it still has a level of complexity that can’t be seen on the surface. I really recommend you give it a try. You won’t know how funny it is to draw seven cards per turn until you see it yourself!

Thanks for reading!

Autor: 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.