Getting Started: The Basics (Pokemon TCG Rules)

/Getting Started: The Basics (Pokemon TCG Rules)
Getting Started: The Basics (Pokemon TCG Rules) 2016-10-29T22:09:26+00:00

tutorial

Introduction

New to the Pokemon Trading Card Game? This guide will go over the very basics of the game and rules to get you started.

This guide focuses on playing the game using the official Pokemon TCG Online client, but of course these rules can be used for the physical game.

If you need a refresher, check out the other guides:

  1. Getting Started: The Basics (Pokemon TCG Rules)
  2. How to Earn Tokens, Tickets, and Boosters in Pokemon TCG Online
  3. Beginner’s Overview: Earning Unlocked Boosters
  4. How to Build Competitive Decks

The best way to familiarize yourself with game is actually to dive right on in! You can download the Official game client and follow the tutorials. Pokemon TCGO is available on Windows, macOS (formerly OS X), Android tablets, and iPad (not available for Android phones or iPhone/iPod touch; computers and tablets only).

The Pokemon TCGO is a free game (not really “freemium” either as there aren’t any in-game purchases–unless you live in Canada–and no advertisements).

This guide assumes that you’re at least somewhat familiar with the Pokemon franchise and have either played the mainstream games (for Game Boy, GBC, GBA, Nintendo DS, and 3DS), watched the anime, or heck, even started playing Pokemon Go for iOS and Android.

card-parts

How to Play

The Pokemon TCG is a two-player game for players of all ages. It’s designed to be for children and adults to enjoy in competitive play.

Download the Official Pokemon TCG Rulebook (PDF)

Each player builds a deck of exactly 60 cards. The cards consist of the 3 main types of cards: Pokemon, Trainer cards, and Energy cards. The Pokemon are the stars of the game and are used to attack. Trainer cards are used as support to either help the player or disrupt the opponent; or both. Energy cards are used to power up Pokemon so that they may attack (roughly equivalent to PP or “Power Points” used in the video games.).

Up to 4 of each card (with the same name) may be included in a 60-card deck, except for basic energy cards which are unrestricted.

Who Goes First?

coin-flip

In a game of Pokemon TCG (officially called a “match”), a player traditionally flips a coin to determine who goes first. The player who calls the coin correctly may decide to go first or second. (In the physical game, most competitive players no longer use coins and damage counters, instead opting to use dice.)

Under normal circumstances, the player who goes first may not attack on his or her first turn. The player who goes second; however, may attack on his/her turn.

Match Setup

After determining which player goes first, each player shuffles their cards and draws a hand of 7 cards. Each player then chooses a Basic Pokemon from their hand and places it face-down in the Active Pokemon spot.

first-turn

If a player has more than one Basic Pokemon, they may place them face-down on the Bench, below the Active Pokemon spot. The Bench can hold up to 5 additional Pokemon at any given time, for a max total of 6 Pokemon in play for each player.

If a player does not have a Basic Pokemon in their first hand, they must take a “mulligan”. If a player mulligans, he or she shows their hand to the opponent, shuffles it back to the deck, and draws a new hand of 7 cards and repeats this process if necessary. For each mulligan the opponent may draw 1 additional card. (If both players mulligan the same number of times, neither player may draw additional cards.)

Next, each player takes the top six cards of their deck and sets them aside to the left, face-down. These 6 cards are the Prize Cards.

Finally, each player flips over their Active and Benched Pokemon face-up.

Turns

At the start of each player’s turn, he or she draws a card. After drawing, a player may perform the following actions in any order:

first-turn-no-attack

  • Attach one Energy card to either the Active or a Benched Pokemon (once per turn).
  • Play a Basic Pokemon from their Hand to the Bench.
  • Evolve any Pokemon in play (only if that Pokemon was not put into play this turn or has already evolved this turn.)
  • Retreat the Active Pokemon and replace it with a Benched Pokemon
  • Play any Trainer cards from their Hand. After playing a Trainer card, that card is placed face-up in that player’s Discard Pile.
  • Use any Abilities (formerly Pokemon Powers) from the Active or Benched Pokemon.

attackFinally, the player may Attack using the Active Pokemon (if the player can meet the energy requirements for the Attack).

Attacking ends the players turn. If a player cannot attack (such as if the player doesn’t have sufficient energy, or if this is the first turn of the game), that player may choose to Pass to end their turn.

Players take turns after one another until one Player wins the game (or the other player concedes).

Damage

Attacks typically inflict damage on the opponent’s Active Pokemon, inflict a Special Condition, or have a unique Effect. (Special Conditions and Effects will be discussed later.)

Damage to all Pokemon in play is normally tracked using damage counters or dice in the physical game. In PTCGO, damage is indicated by a number in the upper-right corner of each Pokemon. When the damage inflicted on a Pokemon equals or exceeds that Pokemon’s HP (Hit Points), that Pokemon is Knocked Out.

When a player’s Pokemon is Knocked Out, he or she places it and all cards attached to it (including Energy cards, tools, and its previous evolution cards) face-up in the Discard Pile. The Opponent then takes a Prize Card and puts it in their Hand. The Player must then replace their Knocked Out Pokemon with one on the Bench.

Winning a Match

The primary way to win a Pokemon TCG match is for a player to draw all 6 of their Prize Cards. A Player draws a Prize Card for Knocking Out the opponent’s Pokemon by inflicting damage or reducing their HP to 0.

victory

A player also wins under the following conditions:

  • If the opponent has no more Pokemon in play (“Donk”).
  • If the opponent cannot draw a card at the beginning of their turn (“Deck-out”).
  • If the opponent runs out of time during their turn (in a timed match or tournament).

Retreat Cost

retreat

When a player wishes to move the Active Pokemon to the Bench, he or she must first pay the Retreat Cost. The Player must then replace the Active Pokemon with one on the Bench. Retreating may only be done once per turn (with the exception of using Switch, Escape Rope, and other similar Trainer cards).

Each Pokemon has a Retreat Cost – a certain number of Energy cards must be discarded from the Pokemon in order to retreat. If the Active Pokemon does not have enough Energy attached to pay the Retreat Cost, or if there are no Benched Pokemon, it may not retreat.

Some Pokemon have no Retreat Cost and may Retreat for free. Other Pokemon have a Retreat Cost of between 1 and 5 energy (usually corresponding to the Pokemon’s Speed stat or weight in the video games).

Retreat Cost is always indicated on the bottom of card using the Colorless energy symbol. Any energy type can be used to satisfy the Retreat Cost.

Pokemon Types

In the Pokemon TCG, every Pokemon has a type.

Types are simplified in the TCG compared to the video games. 11 Types exist as opposed to the 18 types in the video games.

types

The types in the Pokemon TCG include the following (with the corresponding video game types included):

  • Grass (Grass, Bug, and formerly Poison*)
  • Fire (Fire)
  • Water (Water, Ice)
  • Lightning (Electric)
  • Fighting (Fighting, Rock, Ground)
  • Psychic (Psychic, Ghost, Poison)
  • Normal (Normal, Flying, and formerly Dragon**)
  • Darkness (Dark)
  • Metal (Steel)
  • Dragon (Dragon)
  • Fairy (Fairy)

*Pokemon that were Poison type in the video games used to be depicted as Grass type in the TCG. Poison types were re-classified as Psychic types.

**Pokemon that were Dragon type in the video games used to be depicted as Normal type in the TCG. Dragon type was added in the Dragons Exalted expansion.

Originally there were only 7 types in the Pokemon TCG: Grass, Fire, Water, Lightning, Fighting, Psychic, and Normal. Darkness, Metal, Dragon, and Fairy types were added to the Pokemon TCG in later expansions.

As opposed to the video games, Pokemon have types but individual attacks do not. Every attack is based on the type of its Pokemon for calculating Weakness and Resistance.

Dual-types

Bisharp (STS)

Bisharp (STS)

Dual-type Pokemon have existed in various forms throughout the Pokemon TCG. Dual-types were re-introduced to the modern TCG with the set Steam Siege.

Dual-type Pokemon are represented by showing 2 type symbols in the upper-right corner of the card, and showing both type colors on the card.

As dual-types were re-introduced in the Steam Siege set, it is possible that a Pokemon can be both Weak to and Resist the opposing Pokemon’s type. In those cases, first weakness is applied and then resistance.

For instance, Xerneas is weak to Metal and resists Darkness. The Bisharp from Steam Siege is a dual-type Darness/Metal. If Bisharp attacks Xerneas with an attack of base 90 damage, it is first doubled to 180, then 20 is subtracted for a total of 160.

Weakness and Resistance

In the Pokemon TCG, every Pokemon has a Type almost every Pokemon has a Weakness. weaknessSome Pokemon also have a Resistance to a type, but not all.

If a Pokemon is weak to the type of the opposing Pokemon’s type, the damage is doubled. The Diamond and Pearl expansion changed the weakness calculation to +10 for Basics, +20 for Stage 1, and +30/40 for Stage 2. The HeartGold and SoulSilver expansions onward (Legacy, Expanded, and Standard) have reverted the damage calculation back to x2.

If a Pokemon resists the opposing Pokemon’s type, 20 damage is subtracted. Originally 30 damage was subtracted for resistance. The Diamond and Pearl expansions changed Resistance to -20, where it has remained.

Again, individual attacks in the TCG do not have types. Instead, all damage done from an attack is the type of the attacking Pokemon.

As the Pokemon types have been simplified from the video games, not all Pokemon of the same type share the same weakness and resistance.

For instance, both Water and Ice types from the video games are Water type in the TCG. Water Pokemon who were Water type in the video games are weak against grass. Water types who were Ice type in the video games are instead weak to Metal.

Special Conditions

Just as the video games had status conditions, Special Conditions exist in the Pokemon TCG. There are 5 Special Conditions: Poison, Burn, Confusion, Paralysis, and Sleep.

special-conditions

Unlike the video game, Special Conditions are not necessarily mutually exclusive. It is possible for an Active Pokemon to have more than 1 Special Condition.

A Pokemon may be simultaneously Poisoned, Burned, and 1 of the following: Confused, Paralyzed, or Asleep.

If a Pokemon is already Confused, Paralyzed, or Asleep, and becomes affected by a different condition (other than Poisoned or Burned), the new special condition replaces the old one.

Special Conditions only affect the Active Pokemon in play. Once a Pokemon is retreated to the Bench, all Special Conditions are removed.

Special Conditions are also removed when the Pokemon evolves, using a Trainer card that removes Special Conditions (such as Pokemon Center Lady), or using certain attacks may remove special conditions.

Poisonedpoison-marker

When a Pokemon is Poisoned, a Poison-marker is placed on it. At the end of each player’s turn (both the Player’s and the Opponent’s), 1 damage counter is placed on the afflicted Pokemon.

Under rare circumstances, other effects or cards may increase the damage inflicted by Poison to 2, 3, or even 4 damage counters per turn.

Burnedburned-marker

When a Pokemon is Burned, a Burn-marker is placed on it. At the end of each player’s turn (both the Player’s and the Opponent’s), a coin is flipped. If tails, place 2 damage counters on the afflicted Pokemon.

As with Poison, some abilities and effects may increase the damage done by Burned.

The Burned status condition was added to the Pokemon TCG in 2002 with the Expedition Base Set.

No card in the current Standard Format (2016-2017) is capable of inflicting the Burned Special Condition.

Update: Due to a recent rule change, starting with the Sun & Moon set release, the Burned condition will now put 2 damage counters on the afflicted Pokemon each turn. After applying the damage, the affected Player will flip a coin. If heads, that Pokemon is no longer Burned. Pokemon in Sun & Moon, such as Incineroar GX, are capable of Burning Pokemon.

Confused

If a Pokemon is Confused, it’s card is turned upside-down. If a Confused Pokemon tries to attack, the Player must flip a coin. If heads, the attack proceeds as normal. If tails, the attack fails and the Player puts 3 damage counters on the afflicted Pokemon.

Retreat is not affected by Confusion. If a Pokemon is retreated, evolves, or the Player uses a Trainer card such as Pokemon Center Lady, the afflicted Pokemon is healed from Confusion.

Asleep

Pokemon Center Lady

Pokemon Center Lady

If a Pokemon is Asleep, it is turned to the left (counter/anti-clockwise).

A Pokemon that is Asleep cannot attack or retreat. In between each player’s turn, the Player flips a coin. If heads, the Pokemon wakes up and is no longer Asleep. If tails, the Pokemon remains Asleep.

While the Pokemon is Asleep, it cannot attack or retreat. However, if a card is played that forces a retreat (such as an Escape Rope or Switch), the Pokemon is retreated and is no longer Asleep. (Pokemon Tool cards such as a Float Stone that allows free retreat do not allow for retreat on an Asleep Pokemon.)

Paralyzed

If a Pokemon is Paralyzed, it is turned to the right (clockwise).

A Pokemon that is Paralyzed cannot attack or retreat, similar to being Asleep. However, a coin is not flipped between turns. The Pokemon will remain Paralyzed and unable to retreat or attack until the end of the Player’s turn, unless otherwise healed or forced to retreat by use of an Escape Rope or Switch.

Attack Effects

Pokemon Attacks can do more than damage. Certain attacks may have certain effects that can negatively affect the Opponent’s Pokemon or even the Opponent his or herself. Some effects may prevent damage done to the Pokemon who used the attack,while others may even stop the attacking Pokemon from using the same attack the following turn.

Attack Effects vary and include, for instance, Jolteon-EX’s attack Flash Ray, which during the opponent’s next turn prevents any damage done to Jolteon-EX by Basic Pokemon.

Glaceon-EX has an attack, Crystal Ray, with a similar effect that prevents all damage done to it by Evolution Pokemon (including Mega Pokemon-EX and Pokemon BREAK). Also Regice has an attack that prevents all damage done to it by EX-Pokemon.

A Pokemon Attack that can affect the Opponent instead of a Pokemon, including Seismitoad-EX’s Quaking Punch (in Expanded format) that prevents the opponent from using any item cards during his or her next turn.pokemon-ranger

The Supporter Card Pokemon Ranger prevents all Attack Effects for each player’s turn when played. This would, for instance, allow a Basic Pokemon to attack a Jolteon-EX that had just used Flash Ray.

Note that Pokemon Ranger must be used after an Effect has been placed and not before.

A Pokemon attack that states that it may not use the same attack or even attack the following turn is considered an Effect as well. For instance, Volcanion-EX may not use its attack, Volcanic Heat, again the following turn. If a Player uses Pokemon Ranger on their second turn after using Volcanic Heat, the Effect is removed and they may use Volcanic Heat again.

Pokemon Abilities

 

Some Pokemon may have special Abilities (formerly called Pokemon Powers). Abilities can have many different effects, such as being able to draw cards, making the Pokemon immune to certain effects or attacks, giving your Pokemon free retreat, or hindering your opponent by shutting off their Pokemon’s abilities, and many others.

Pokemon Abilities can be used numerous times each turn, before you attack. Some Pokemon Abilities are passive, in that they can’t be selected and actively “used”, they just exist. Others must be clicked on to be used, and some can be used multiple times.

Disabling Abilities

The Supporter card Hex Maniac disables both player’s Abilities until the Opponent’s next turn. Also, Pokemon like Garbodor (when it is holding a Tool card), shut off all Pokemon’s abilities. Wobuffet, when it is the Active Pokemon, disables all Pokemon’s abilities that are not Psychic type. The Stadium card Silent Lab shuts down all Basic Pokemon’s abilities.

There are more examples, too.

Card Types (Standard Format)

card-types

Pokemon

Basic Pokemon

Basic Pokemon are a type of Pokemon that do not evolve from any other Pokemon. (They may; however, evolve into another Pokemon.).

At least 1 Basic Pokemon is required in any deck to be considered legal, as a Player may not play without first placing a Basic Pokemon in the Active Pokemon spot in the beginning of a match.

Pokemon-EX are also considered Basic Pokemon as they do not evolve from any other Pokemon and may be placed in the Active Pokemon spot right away.

Evolution Pokemon

evolve-pawniard

Evolution Pokemon include both Stage 1 and Stage 2 Pokemon. Stage 1 Pokemon evolve from Basic Pokemon and Stage 2 Pokemon from Stage 1.

Evolution Pokemon generally have more HP than their previous evolutions as well as stronger attacks. (One exception to having more HP includes Shedinja, which goes from 40 HP to a lowly 30 HP when evolved from Nincada.)

Basic and Stage 1 Pokemon evolve by placing its evolution card on top of it. Pokemon may evolve once per turn, but not on turn they were put into play or if they have already evolved that turn. Both the Active Pokemon and Benched Pokemon may evolve on a Player’s turn. Evolved Pokemon count as 1 Pokemon when in play.

Pokemon BREAK

Pokemon BREAK are a special type of Pokemon evolution card. These cards feature Pokemon that are gold-colored and are unique in that they are printed sideways. Pokemon BREAK were introduced in the BREAKthrough expansion.

BREAK

 

Pokemon BREAK are placed sideways when evolving from another Pokemon. A BREAK Pokemon has more HP than its previous evolution and gains one additional attack or ability. It retains the previous Pokemon’s attacks, abilities, retreat cost, weakness, and resistance.

Placing a BREAK card on a Pokemon counts as evolving that Pokemon and the same rules for Evolution applies.

BREAK cards exist that evolve from Basic, Stage 1, and Stage 2 Pokemon.

Pokemon BREAK are considered to be Evolution Pokemon, but not Stage 1 or Stage 2 in regards to certain Effects, Abilities, and Trainer Cards.

Rare candies may not be used to evolve into a Pokemon BREAK as the card specifies that a Basic Pokemon may evolve into a Stage 2 Pokemon; Pokemon BREAK are not considered Stage 2.

Restored Pokemon and Fossil Cards

restored-pokemon

Restored Pokemon are a special type of Pokemon that is restored from a Fossil. Restored Pokemon are similar to Basic Pokemon except before they can be placed on the Bench a Fossil Card must first be played.

Restored Pokemon include Aerodactyl, Omanyte, and Kabuto. A Total of 11 Restored Pokemon exist. Evolutions of Restored Pokemon are considered Stage 1 and the same rules for Evolution apply.

Fossil Cards are an Item Card that allow you to place a Restored Pokemon on the Bench by looking at the bottom 7 cards of the Deck. If the specified Restored Pokemon is found within the bottom 7 cards, it may be placed on the Bench.

Restored Pokemon may not be placed in the Active Pokemon spot during the beginning of a match.

Restored Pokemon and Fossil Cards were reintroduced with the Noble Victories Expansion.

Pokemon-EX

pokemon-ex

Pokemon-EX are Basic Pokemon with much higher HP and stronger attacks than most other Basic Pokemon.

Pokemon-EX may be Pokemon that are normally Basic, Stage 1, or Stage 2, such as Venusaur-EX. However, Pokemon-EX cards are considered Basic Pokemon and may be placed in the Active spot or on the Bench right away.

To compensate for Pokemon-EX’s higher HP and stronger attacks, when one is Knocked Out, the opponent may draw 2 prize cards instead of 1.

Mega Pokemon-EX

mega-pokemon

Mega Pokemon-EX were introduced in the XY Expansion as an evolved Pokemon-EX that has even higher HP and stronger attacks. Mega Pokemon-EX are identified as having a stylized “M” before their name.

When Mega Pokemon-EX evolve from Pokemon-EX, the Player’s turn ends immediately. This mechanic was added to once again compensate for Mega Pokemon-EX’s increased HP and strength. Because of this mechanic, Mega Pokemon-EX were initially not played much competitively.

However, a new Pokemon Tool was later introduced called a Spirit Link that when attached to a Pokemon-EX does not end the Player’s turn when evolved. Many Pokemon-EX that also have a Mega evolution also have their own unique Spirit Link.

Some Pokemon-EX; however, do not currently have a Spirit Link for their Mega evolution, including Venusaur-EX. When the Evolutions set launches in November 2016, this set will include several Spirit Links for existing Mega evolutions.

Two Mega Pokemon-EX exist that go by another name: Primal Groudon-EX and Primal Kyogre-EX. Both are considered Mega Pokemon-EX for abilities, effects, and trainer cards. Instead of undergoing “mega evolution” they are said to perform “primal reversion”.

Pokemon GX

Pokemon GX is a new mechanic that will be introduced when the Sun & Moon expansion set launches on February 3, 2017.

pokemon-gx

Pokemon GX are similar to Pokemon-EX, such as when one is Knocked Out, the Opponent draws 2 Prize Cards. However, Pokemon GX also have a special attack that is considerably more powerful, but may only be used once per game. Apparently, not all Pokemon GX are Basic Pokemon, as shown by Lurantis GX, which is a Stage 1 Pokemon GX.

This GX Move restriction applies to all of a Player’s Pokemon GX, if they have more than one. That is, once any of a Player’s Pokemon GX use their GX move, it and any other of the Player’s Pokemon GX may not use their GX moves for the rest of the match. Pokemon GX also have other normal attacks and abilities they may continue to use without restriction.

Currently, seven Pokemon GX are known to be released soon: Lunala GX, Solgaleo GX, Luranis GX, Snorlax GX, and more.

More will be announced regarding Pokemon GX when the Sun & Moon expansion is closer to release.

Trainer Cards

Supporter Cards

sycamoreSupporter Cards are generally more powerful Trainer Cards that may only be played once per turn. After a Supporter Card is played, it is placed face-up in the Discard Pile.

They have many various effects, but are mainly focused on drawing additional cards, obtaining certain cards, and even healing Pokemon.

They include popular staple cards, such as Professor Sycamore, N, Lysandre, Pokemon Ranger, Hex Maniac, and Ninja Boy.

 

Item Cards

vs-seekerItem cards are Trainer cards that perform many different actions and have different effects. You may play as many Item Cards as you’d like each turn. After an Item Card is played, it is placed face-up in the Discard Pile.

Item Cards are generally not as powerful as Supporter Cards as they can be used without restriction.

The most common Item Cards include Ultra Ball, VS Seeker, Trainers’ Mail, Switch, Escape Rope, Max Potion.

Pokemon Tools

Pokemon Tools are considered Item Cards but are attached to a Pokemon in play. They can be attached to either the Active Pokemon or Benched Pokemon. Normally only one tool can be attached to a Pokemon at a time. When a Pokemon is Knocked out or if the Tool is otherwise removed, the Pokemon Tool is placed in the Discard Pile.

They have various effects, such as increasing damage done, decreasing damage taken, gradual healing, free retreat, increased HP, and also Spirit Links which prevent the user’s turn ending when evolving into a Mega Pokemon-EX.

The most common Pokemon Tools include the various Spirit Links as well as Float Stone, Fighting Fury Belt, Bursting Balloon, and Exp Share.

Stadium Cards

sky-fieldStadium Cards are a special Trainer Card that affect all Pokemon in play, or both players.

Only 1 Stadium Card can be in play at a time. If a Stadium Card is already in play and a Player uses a different Stadium Card, the old one is replaced and put in the original Player’s Discard Pile.

Stadium Cards can have various effects, such as expanding or shrinking the “field”, changing the number of Pokemon allowed on the Bench to up to 8 or as few as 3. They may increase or decrease damage done to certain Pokemon, damage certain Pokemon, heal certain others, prevent certain Special Conditions, or many other effects.

The most popular Stadium Cards include Sky Field, Parallel City, Forest of Giant Plants, Rough Seas, Silent Lab, Scorched Earth, and Chaos Tower.

Energy Cards

Basic Energy

basic-energy

A Basic Energy card is considered one unit of Energy. There are 9 different types of Basic Energy, including Grass, Fire, Water, Lightning, Fighting, Psychic, Darkness, Metal, and Fairy. Only 1 energy card can be attached to 1 of any Pokemon in play per turn.

The amount and type of energy must be attached to a Pokemon in order to use its attack, except for colorless energy, which can be any type.

For instance, if an attack requires 1 Grass Energy and 2 Colorless Energy, that Pokemon requires 1 Grass Energy and 2 additional energy of any type, whether it be 2 more grass energies, a Double Colorless Energy, or even two Water energy cards.

Basic Energy cards are the only cards in the Pokemon TCG that a player can have more than 4 of in a deck.

Special Energy

Special Energy cards are Energy cards that either provide more than of an energy or provide additional effects when attached. Some Special Energy card effects include increasing damage done, decreasing damage taken, preventing Special Conditions, healing damage, and others.

Some Special Energy cards can provide any type of energy when attached but only one type at a time, such as Rainbow Energy and Double Dragon Energy.

Many Special Energy cards can only be attached to certain types of Pokemon, such as Double Dragon Energy can only be attached to Dragon-type Pokemon, as well as Strong Energy for Fighting Pokemon, Shield Energy for Metal Pokemon, Wonder Energy for Fairy Pokemon, and others.

A Player may only have up to 4 of each of the Special Energy cards in a Deck.

Special Energy Cards in the Standard Format include:

  • Double Colorless Energy
  • Double Dragon Energy
  • Double Magma Energy
  • Double Aqua Energy
  • Rainbow Energy
  • Strong Energy
  • Shield Energy
  • Wonder Energy
  • Splash Energy
  • Burning Energy
  • Flash Energy
  • Dangerous Energy

Many other Special Energy cards have been released over the history of the TCG but those are not playable in the current Standard Format (many others are in other Formats, including Expanded and Legacy).

Match Formats

Various formats of matches in the Pokemon TCG exist. This allows for different styles of play and different strategies.

The most commonly played format is the Standard format, which is used in most Regional Tournaments, and the World Championships. The Standard format consists of the latest expansions sets, spanning from the last 2 years or so.

Expansion sets are normally released every 3 months, for a total of 4 expansion sets per year. The current set is Steam Siege, which was released in August 2016. The next expansion set is Evolutions, scheduled to be released in November 2016.

Occasionally, some local and regional events may use the Expanded format.

In Pokemon TCGO, a player may choose between Standard, Expanded, and Legacy formats (besides Theme Format) when playing in Versus Mode or in Tournaments.

View the list of all expansion sets.

Standard Rotation

Each year, in order to keep the game “fresh,” Standard Format rotates, where some of the oldest expansion sets become no longer playable in the Standard Format.

This usually occurs in the fall of each year late August or early September, following the annual World Championships.

The latest Standard Rotation (for the 2016-2017 season) was on September 1, 2016, where the following sets were rotated out:

If you’re getting the latest expansion set, odds are that set will remain in the Standard Rotation until the following year’s rotation in autumn. That means each set remains in the Standard Format for 13-24 months or so.

For example, it’s unlikely that the most recent sets XY-Evolutions and XY-Steam Siege will be rotated out next fall, August/September 2017. These sets, along with XY-Fates Collide, Generations, and possibly even XY-BREAKpoint and XY-BREAKthrough, will likely stay in the Standard Format until the rotation in August/September 2018.

Standard

standard-format

The current rotation (2016-2017) includes the following sets:

When a new Promo Card or new expansion set is released, it becomes standard-legal (for tournaments) on the third Friday following its release in the US. When XY-Evolutions launches on November 2, it will become standard-legal on November 18, 2016.

Upcoming sets:

Any cards from previous sets that were reprinted in any Standard set may be used.

Example: VS Seeker is from Phantom Forces (expanded), but was reprinted as a secret rare in Roaring Skies. All Versions of VS Seeker are therefore standard legal.

Expanded

The Expanded Format includes all expansion sets from Black & White to the current set (including Standard).

Legacy

The Legacy Format includes the expansion set HeartGold & SoulSilver through BW: Legendary Treasures (does not include any sets from XY and on).

Legacy Format is an online-only Format. The physical TCG consists of only Standard and Expanded.

Unlimited

The Unlimited Format was retired on PTCGO for Versus Mode and for Tournaments but still exists for Friend Battles.

Unlimited includes every card from every set (HeartGold & SoulSilver to current set) with the exception of banned cards.

There is currently no way to play or obtain any Pokemon TCG cards before the HeartGold & SoulSilver sets.

What’s Next?

To find out more about the Pokemon TCG Online and how to earn rewards, check out the next Getting Started guide: 2. How to Earn Tokens, Tickets, and Boosters in Pokemon TCG Online.

For more in-depth strategy and earning Unlocked Boosters, out the 3. Beginner’s Overview: Earning Unlocked Boosters!

Ready for more advanced deck-building strategies? Check out the final guide 4. How to Build Competitive Decks, the Staple card list, and view some Deck Lists.

 

 

7 Comments

  1. Jana October 12, 2016 at 5:03 pm - Reply

    You go into great detail on each card, character, and uses of each one. I have a lot of friends both online and offline who play Pokemon on a regular basis. I have seen the game and heard a lot about it but have not played myself yet.
    I have always wondered how many there are, the functions and powers they posses, their weaknesses, and many other things about them. My friends have only given me brief descriptions of these cards so I am relieved to see you have helped with that here on this page.
    One can never get enough of Pokemon. I am going to share this info with my friends as see how much they know about it. They are going to be surprised how much I learned from you on them.

    • Lincoln October 12, 2016 at 1:43 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the praise and shares, Jana!

      I’d like to make this site into a decent, in-depth resource for all players, from true beginners to seasoned experts.

      I’m looking forward to adding even more in-depth guides, deck lists, news, and analysis soon.

      I’ve found the best way to learn is to just dive on in and play the game! After all, the Pokémon TCG Online is completely free to play.

      If you ever have any certain questions, feel free to ask!

  2. Salvatore V Jenkins Jr. October 12, 2016 at 4:53 pm - Reply

    You are very details and their is a lot to take in but this is a great guide for someone trying to get started with the game.

    I feel as though If I download the game and used your guide during game play I would start to pick up the basics understanding of how the game is played.

    Any tips or anything I should make sure I do when I start the game?

    • Lincoln October 12, 2016 at 1:39 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the question, Salvatore!

      Any tips for beginners? Sure!

      When you first start the game, make sure to complete all the tutorials. Next focus on the Trainer Challenge.

      You’ll have 3 Basic Theme Decks you’ll need to unlock: Crushing Current, Born of Fire, and Hidden Depths.

      Make sure you play each deck against 7 different trainers (and win!) to fully unlock each deck.

      After that you play in Versus Mode – Theme Format (and in Tournaments) to earn even more rewards!

      It’s really a lot of fun, and once you’ve built your collection you can trade and make your own competitive decks!

  3. Paul October 12, 2016 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    Hey Lincoln

    This is one awesome guide!

    I really appreciate the content list at the start, makes it really easy to navigate and find what we are looking for.

    I found your site as my boys love Pokeman and hundreds of cards, so thought I would browse around the internet when I found this site.
    Great use of pictures to describe the game, this will make it easy for my boys to follow.

    I didn’t see any pricing so I’m guessing that the online game is free, is that correct?

    Again I can’t say enough about how well your guide is made. I’m sure my boys will use your site as their main resource for all their Pokeman questions.
    Cheers
    Paul

    • Lincoln October 12, 2016 at 1:35 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the comment, Paul!

      To answer your question, yes, the Pokémon TCG Online is completely free! Don’t worry, there’s really no in-app or in-game purchases either (unless you live in Canada, where you can purchase gems).

      Everything you need to play the game is included. Follow the steps in these guides to earn tons of boosters, cards, and Theme Decks to start playing right away!

      If you or your boys have any questions, always feel free to ask ! ????

  4. Lincoln October 12, 2016 at 2:04 am - Reply

    What do you think about this getting started guide?
    Need to add more? (Too much?! lol)

    Have any questions about the basics or the rules of the game? Be sure to ask and I’ll do my best to help!

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