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  • Magic: The Gathering has this in spades.
    • The game's original set has many differences from the expansions:
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    • Most of the Early Installment Weirdness was solved by Classic Sixth Edition, released in 1999, six years into the game's lifespan. Six Edition standardized and codified many previously nebulous rules as well as changing different card types having different "speeds" (i.e., a Mana Source could be used over top of an Interrupt, which in turn could be used on top of a Sorcery or Instant) into a simple first-in-last-out "stack" that the game has run on ever since.
    • The "Block system" of one large set followed by two related sets, as we know it today, didn't actually begin until Mirage. Homelands was originally shoehorned into an Ice Age "block", but then later made Coldsnap to properly complete the Ice Age "block".
    • Some elements that have always been a part of the game didn't always have their modern rules:
      • Cards that represent weapons and the like before Equipment was made into a rule. For example, Zelyon Sword used tapping and a continuous targeting effect to stay "attached" to a creature. With modern Equipment, a sword being used by a creature that gets killed can be equipped to a different creature, but old Equipment-like cards usually followed the user to the grave.
      • This is particularly awkward when a long-standing ability finally gets keyworded, but not exactly how the previous version(s) worked. One example is "Deathtouch," which causes any amount of damage deal to a creature to be lethal—there were at least three previous versions, none of which worked that way.
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    • Also, many of the earliest cards use different words for core concepts and take less things for granted about the knowledge of the players. Cards often explain the mechanics of the game in the card itself, with examples and all, while nowadays these are nearly always left out because the templating is much more streamlined, and the rules are much more codified, with whole sections on things that used to be (and in a few cases still are) specific to one or two cards. A good example of this is Keldon Warlord, whose original card text was: "The Xs below are the number of non-wall creatures on your side, including Warlord. Thus if you have 2 other non-wall creatures, Warlord is 3/3. If one of those creatures is killed during the turn, Warlord immediately becomes 2/2." The modern text is simply: "Keldon Warlord's power and toughness are each equal to the number of non-Wall creatures you control."
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    • While reminder text has always been a part of the game (look at early versions of Fog, for example), it was originally indistinguishable from rules text. Only in Mirage was it first put into parentheses and italics or used to define new or seldom-used keywords.
    • For a single-card example, here's a 2013 printing of Sol Ring with a silver card frame, rarity-coded expansion symbol, modern card frame and wording, and flavor text filling in the empty space in the text box. Here's the original with its old-school fantasy look, brown artifact frame, "mono artifact" on the type line, no expansion symbol, and giant rules text with no tap symbol that references "interrupts". The artist interprets Sol Ring as some kind of cosmic/stellar event instead of a wearable artifact, hence the modern flavor text referencing the older depiction as a lost artificer's technique from another time.
    • While nowadays a creature subtype has no specific meaning in a vacuum, for quite some time any creature typed as a Wall simply couldn't attack, and the designers didn't feel the need to spell this out. Since then all such cards have retroactively been given the Defender ability, and while certain subtypes are associated with specific mechanics these are always explicitly stated.
    • As Magic was the pioneer CCG, Richard Garfield and his team had no idea how powerful certain aspects of the games could be, perhaps most notably card advantage, resulting in some absolutely absurd cases of imbalance in the Alpha set. This could be seen most obviously in the "Boon" set, 5 instant spells of each of the 5 colours that gave you 3 of an effect themed to that colour for one mana. This set included Red's Lightning Bolt (3 damage), Green's Giant Growth (+3/+3 until end of turn), White's Healing Salve (3 damage prevention or life gain), Black's Dark Ritual (3 black mana) and... Blue's Ancestral Recall, which instantly let you draw three cards for 1 mana. Once people began to learn how to actually play Magic Ancestral Recall rapidly came to be considered one of the most overpowered cards in the game's entire history (one of the infamous "Power Nine") and it was never reprinted after the Unlimited set.
    • Lastly, the game changed how the cards themselves looked for 8th Edition, it's ten year anniversary.
  • Warhammer 40,000 was initially just Warhammer Fantasy Recycled In Space with things like the Eldar being explicitly called "Space Elves". It also wasn't actually called "Warhammer 40 000" until the 2nd edition (the first edition is called Rogue Trader)
    • Of particular note is the fact that in its earliest incarnation 40k was more than a little campy and silly at times, whereas now the setting is famous for being a Darker and Edgier Crapsack Universe. Among the fandom, First Edition Warhammer 40k is usually only considered canon from a Broad Strokes point of view since large portions of its background information is no longer compatible with the current 40k universe.
    • The earliest edition of Warhammer 40000 was also missing some concepts that are now critical to the setting, the most obvious of them being daemons. There were still monsters in the Warp, but they weren't actually the now-iconic daemons.
      • The very concept of Chaos as a faction didn't exist at all in the 1st edition rulebook, either. There were Warp space and Warp monsters that could possess people, but nothing like Chaos Space Marines, Chaos Cultists etc. These elements were added in during the latter years of 1st edition, through the two Realm of Chaos books.
      • Likewise, the current idea of the Emperor engineering the twenty Space Marine Primarchs from his own DNA, and Space Marines being genetically descended from them, did not exist until late 1st edition, when it was added in by the second Realm of Chaos book, Lost and the Damned. While the Warmaster Horus and his rebellion, the Horus Heresy, had been a part of 40k canon since the Rogue Trader rulebook, he was simply the Emperor's favoured general and closest friend before Lost and the Damned retconned him into being a Primarch.
    • The 1st edition of 40k had a lot more RPG-ish elements than the later ones, including needing a Game Master. The game was designed more for a small-scale squad-based combat rather than large armies. The game didn't become a full-fledged wargame until 2nd edtion (although even then the rules were designed more for smaller-scale battles, making larger battles very time-consuming and rather awkward to play).
    • And then there's the art style. Behold the might of the Tyranid menace and the terrifying Carnifex! And stop snickering!
    • Space Marines started out being depicted with slogans printed on their armour that, as White Dwarf put it once, "would embarrass an American GI". if contemporary Space Marines have slogans on their armour, it's usually Latin, and one with the older ones would be given a stern talking-to by the Chaplain. The style of writing for the slogans has also changed drastically, from punk graffiti to medieval calligraphy.
    • Don't forget the fact that in early Warhammer 40K THIS was considered canon. Any recent Space Marine or Inquisition would immediately brand Illiyan Nastase as an abomination and kill him.
    • Orks were very different in the first two editions of Warhammer 40K. They were notably better at shooting, but worse at close combat; they often wore bright and garish colours; they weren't a type of space fungus, but humanoids with an odd reproductive system; their clan system was described in great detail and had substantial effects on game play; they had lots of Lethal Joke Items. In the original rulebook they were subject to hatred of all enemies, an element of psychology that was never again part of the rules.
    • Orks also looked incredibly different and acted less impulsive. Modern Orks came about due to the Gaiden Game Gorkamorka, which codified their Mad Max design and hooligan-style approach to warfare. The older Orks had such oddities as beards, a more streamlined and straight-forward look for their tech instead of "cobbled-together scrap that somehow works", resembled the Huns and Mongolians a lot more and used Germanic iconography, including swastikas (one of many reasons why Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka can be legitimately compared to Adolf Hitler, since his banner often featured one in official art); and overall Orks looked a lot smaller and wimpier, compared to the hulking monstrosities they became. In fact, Gorkamorka's Ork models, while more muscled, are still somewhat tiny like the Rogue Trader miniatures, compared to later ones.
    • The original edition was called Rogue Trader because back then, there weren't army lists; it was assumed that each player's forces would represent a band of mercenaries, space pirates, and hired guns drawn from different races and factions, rather than a formal army of any power. The Imperium was presented as a force that stayed largely in the background and functioned as Obstructive Bureaucrats at best and villains at worst, not the Villain Protagonist faction behind most of the playable armies they are now.
    • Dark Eldar and Necrons, and the Tau to some degree, also received noticable changes since their original inceptions. The Dark Eldar miniature range was completely redone for 2011 and now makes it clear that they essentially are a race of torture-loving, slave-keeping and ever-hedonistic space vampires, and it's reflected in their spikes, whips, lean bodies and organicly-shaped technology, as well as their emphasis on how they have to suck soul energy out of their victims to survive. Necrons were originally unthinking, undead killer robots enslaved by their C'tan masters, while the 2011 release gave them some personality, Egyptian flavour and explained that the C'tan were enslaved by them and shattered (explaining while the Reality Warper C'tan are so weak in battle - they're not the real deal anyore). It also added some special characters, something they completely missed before, and removed the human-turned-Necron units called "Pariahs" in favour of an all-Necron force. The Tau overall changed very little, but in accordance with the setting became noticably darker, more oppressive (still the lightest faction of the setting in comparison), and their "everyone works perfectly together" outlook shattered when Tau "rebel forces" were introduced who do not share the same opinion on the "Greater Good".
    • While the concept of the Emperor being a decaying husk entombed in the Golden Throne has existed since Rogue Trader, the idea that this was due to him being mortally wounded in a battle is a more recent invention. The original book implied that the Throne was simply a machine he used to prolong his lifespan, and his corpse-like state a result of incredibly advanced age.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Role Play, the role-playing game spinoff of the wargame, wasn't renewed for some fifteen or twenty years, thereby preserving a lot of early canon (like several never-seen-again races such as the Fimir, or the Slann being the Precursors themselves) in places where the WFRP was popular.
    • In the first edition of Role Play, Sigmar is mentioned in passing as being a minor deity and the patron of the Empire but not worshipped widely. It wasn't until later that he became the single most powerful and important non-Chaos god in the entire setting.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has had multiple editions over the course of its existence, and each edition is a significant departure from the previous versions.
    • The Original Dungeons and Dragons:
      • The original game was a spinoff of a tabletop wargame called Chainmail, so the very first books required possession of the Chainmail game and the Avalon Hill game Outdoor Survival (which was used for overland adventuring). The basic concept of the game is much more like a wargame than the interactive storytelling experience of later editions.
      • The manual recommends that there be about 1 "referee" per 20 players, anticipating that the players in each session would be drawn from a larger pool and never stay consistent from game to game.
      • The game explicitly steals names from J. R. R. Tolkien's works (such as ent, balrog and hobbit) before being sued by his estate, causing the Suspiciously Similar Substitute creatures that have become standard (e.g. treant, Type VI demon and halfling) to be introduced.
    • Basic Dungeons & Dragons: This version was released was published concurrently with both editions of AD&D. The intent was to serve as a simplified alternative to D&D intended for beginners.
      • As part of preventing the game from getting too complicated, different levels of gameplay are broken up into different boxed sets; Basic (levels 1-3), Expert (level 4-14), Companion (15-25), Master (26-36) and Immortal (Godhood, beyond 36th level).
      • Nonhuman races are considered their own class, so one is simply a 2nd level Elf rather than Elf Fighter or Thief. Though later sourcebooks do implement the idea of "race plus class" as variants, allowing for players to play things like Dwarf Clerics or Elf Shamans.
    • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: This version is more complicated than what came before and very different from what came after.
      • One of the more famous departures is the combat system, in which players determine what number they have to roll above by taking their character's THAC0 score and subtracting their target's Armor Class. Thus, the lower your THAC0 and Armor Class, the better. This also introduced many players to the concept of subtracting negative numbers.
      • Characters are limited in what classes they could take based on their race and attributes. Nonhuman races have a Level Cap on the classes they can take, but can also Multi-Class. Humans have no level restrictions, cannot Multi-Class, but can Dual Class, which is essentially abandoning your current class and starting over at first level in another class.
      • The Bard class cannot be taken at 1st level. Only humans and half-elves with very high stats who pass a variety of difficult in-game challenges can become Bards, making it the most rare and prestigious class in the game.
      • Warrior classes can have Exceptional Strength, which is a percentile score "between" 18 and 19 (18/59, for example).
      • Weapons have different damage ranges depending on the size of the target. In general, blunt weapons do less damage to larger creatures, slashing weapons do more, and piercing weapons do the same.
    • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition: This version revised some of the rules of the first edition AD&D.
      • Some of the core races and classes are removed, such as Half-Orcs and Monks.
      • Bards are changed to just another class available at 1st level.
      • The Proficiency system, which was introduced in several 1st Edition supplements, was optional in the 2E main rules. In later 2E supplements, it was so useful that it was considered to be a core game mechanic.
    • Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition: This is a complete overhaul of the game, retaining the game's spirit and hallmark elements, but discarding most of the former editions' game mechanics in favor of the new open-license D20 system.
      • Checks such as attack rolls, saving throws and skills are all standardized, determined by rolling a D20 and adding all of the character's relevant attribute, ability and item bonuses in an attempt to meet or exceed a target number determined by difficulty.
      • Armor Class is now simply the number that an attack roll needs to meet to score a hit, so the higher it is, the better. Characters also have multiple values depending on the type of attack and the character's awareness of it.
      • Multiclassing is completely changed so that instead of characters being a single class for their whole existence or several classes at the same time, characters can mix and match levels of any class they like each time they level up. Each class is broken up into levels so that when you take a fourth level of Thief, you just add that level's bonuses onto your character's existing stats.
      • Concepts such as Feats, Prestige classes and Creature Templates are also completely new to this edition of the game.
      • Combat is based on 5' squares, with very specific rules about movement actions, weapon reach, threatened squares and attacks of opportunity, all making combat much more tactical and wargame-like than AD&D.
    • Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 Edition: Like Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, this edition was basically a collection of rules patches for problems that became apparent in the 3rd edition. One example includes changing the Haste spell so that it only gives an extra attack as part of a full attack, instead of a second Standard Action.
    • Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition: This version was another large overhaul, intended to tone down the considerable numbers-crunching of 3.0 and 3.5 editions and create a more balanced game, instead of one where class efficiency was as wildly divergent as it had been in 3e. It was also arguably intended to appeal to a more casual crowd who had grown up on Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games, but this is a highly contentious claim that provokes a lot of argument, especially over whether or not that's intended to be a negative thing.
      • All character abilities are grouped into "At Will," "Per Encounter" and "Per Day," much like the common cooldown mechanic of MMO games. Although "per use" abilities were hardly an innovation (going all the way back to the earliest editions), this made classes share the same basic engine, instead of spellcasters having their own, entirely separate subsystems for spellcasting.
      • Healing is primarily done through "Healing Surges" that all characters receive, making a dedicated healing party member less necessary.
      • This version introduces a number of rules and abilities around status effects and forced actions, including abilities that require an enemy to do something (such as attack the Fighter rather than another character) or face a penalty. This builds upon the 3rd editions' conversion of combat into a tactical wargame.
      • Will, Reflex and Fortitude saving throws from the previous edition now function as static defenses which attacks are rolled against, just like armor.
    • Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Essentials: This version was an attempt at being to 4e what 3.5 had been to 3.0. It offered simpler classes that intended to invoke more of a nostalgic feel, mostly by cutting out most of the freeform power selection and giving the player less abilities in general to deal with. The result was an even bigger Broken Base than 4th edition had elicited, and even its fans tend to admit that Essentials makes some crucial mistakes.
    • Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition: This version, the latest so far, focuses on attempting to streamline play whilst still invoking the nostalgic "feel" of AD&D and 3e.
      • The bonuses applied to most rolls are determined solely by attribute and level rather than by a large number of class, ability and item-based sources.
      • All circumstances that affect the likelihood of success on a roll are boiled down to "Advantage" or "Disadvantage," so that when a character has the Advantage, he rolls twice and takes the higher, while doing just the opposite with a Disadvantage.
      • Armor class has returned to a single universal number.
      • All classes now have a mandatory "subclass" choice, typically made around 2nd or 3rd level, which provides roughly half of the class's features.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade was a vastly different beast in First Edition (1991-1992) and the earliest parts of Second Edition (around 1992-1993, though 2e as a whole continued until 1999). The biggest example of this is the total lack of a Metaplot. There were other key differences between First Edition and the later editions of the game.
    • Vampires were less Obviously Evil and more mired in Black and Gray Morality.
    • The Sabbat were less of a more evil counterpart to the Camarilla and more of a mysterious boogeyman that you did NOT want to meet (The few Sabbat characters mentioned before 1993's Guide to the Sabbat had Humanity 0, high discipline levels, and had Sabbat listed as their Clan instead of Sect). In fact, the main conflict in First Edition and early Second Edition was between the Camarilla and Anarchs.
    • The player characters were assumed to be either Anarchs or have Anarch sympathies
    • There were two heroic vampire sects: The Children of Osiris and the Inconnu. Neither were mentioned ever again in Second Edition, and Revised Edition outright killed off the Children of Osiris in their mission to be Darker and Edgier than previous editions.
    • The Independent Clans were sidelined and marginal, and assumed to be extremely rare.
    • The other denizens of the Old World of Darkness were less defined. Werewolves and Mages were insanely powerful boss monsters whose motives and backgrounds were completely unknown. Ghosts and Faeries were also alluded to, and Faeries were even more dangerous than either Werewolves or Mages to the point that they did not have concrete stats, only suggestions for the GM. Mages were less about reshaping reality and more like traditional wizards with insanely high levels of Thaumaturgy and other spells.
    • Related to the previous note, the Antagonists section of the 1e Corebook emphasized that humans were the biggest threat. The majority of the antagonists in the section were human (mostly law enforcement and military personnel, although you still had traditional Vampire Hunter characters as well). In Revised Edition, the only human antagonists outlined were Vampire Hunter characters who already knew about the supernatural, specifically the Inquisitor, the Government Agent, and the Arcanum Scholar.
  • GURPS Fantasy wasn't originally a generic sourcebook. It instead presented a specific fantasy setting. By the fourth edition, GURPS Fantasy was revamped to work in any fantasy campaign, and the older material was continued with GURPS Banestorm.
  • BattleTech
    • The game was originally called Battledroids, but someone else owns "droids"). It started out with a much darker background than its later material - BattleMechs were literally irreplaceable, along with all the interstellar technology being irreplaceable. ComStar, the cult that maintained the Subspace Ansible system was completely absent. Later editions retconned the total destruction of the tech base in the Succession Wars to simply being crippling - there's still factories to produce Jumpships and mechs and the like, they're just very rare and heavily guarded. In-Universe, the situation also became better with the rediscovery of lost technology through the Helm Memory Core.
    • Battledroids also shipped with two alternate rule sets missing in later editions. "Expert" rules formed the basis of later editions rules."Advanced" rules removed piloting checks, fall damage, aimed shots and pushing attacks. "Basic" rules completely changed how the game played; rather than individual armor sections which could be damaged, mechs had fixed armor points, and would be destroyed once all armor was gone. Weapon systems could not be individual fired or aimed, instead all attacks were an Alpha Strike with one dice roll. Overheating, ammo expenditure, and physical attacks were absent.
    • In the early ''BattleTech Expanded Universe' novels', mechs were portrayed as being extremely nimble, being capable of doing rolls and such, which they sure as hell can't do in later novels or in the boardgame. Another shift, albeit a much smaller one, was that infantry-carried laser weapons were originally described as requiring bulky Ghostbusters style backpacks as power sources, which was quickly changed to using more standard pistol and rifle type laser weapons that weren't any larger than gunpowder firearms.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! had quite a few in its first sets:
    • Spell Cards were called Magic Cards, which was changed several years in to avoid copyright infringement of a certain other type of magic card. This resulted in a large-scale Retcon of an entire expansion name("Magic Ruler" was reprinted as "Spell Ruler").
    • Ritual Monsters, Counter-Traps, and Quick-Play Spell Cards were all not present in the starter decks or the first set. It was not until the above-mentioned "Spell Ruler" set that all of these card types were fully implemented into the game.
    • The ban-list was still not fully-enforced in the first few months, with certain cards not restricted or limited as they are now.
    • There was a greater emphasis on monsters without effects in the early years of the games, with Effect Monsters often being much less of a staple of decks.
    • In addition to almost all being Normal monsters, most monsters from the early game also tended to have low stats for their level. It was fairly common for Normal monsters with only 1500 or 1600 ATK requiring a sacrifice to summon. Additionally, many Fusion monsters also tended to have lackluster stats and no effect to make up for how difficult they were to summon.
    • Archetypes barely existed for quite some time, and the few that existed(Blue-Eyes White Dragon, Dark Magician, Harpie Lady) had nowhere near the type of support cards they often needed to really make them worth running, especially lack of an ability to easily Special Summon them. This resulted in a strong case of Complacent Gaming Syndrome when it came to deck design, as it often resulted in "beatdown" decks that involved lots of low-level, high ATK monsters and reliance on certain now-banned Spell/Trap cards. It was well into the GX era by the time Konami did a better job of creating viable archetypes and theme decks.
      • Additionally, true archetypes (that care about a portion of the card's name) weren't introduced until a couple of years into the game. And for a few years after that, it still talked about 'cards with "X" in their name' instead of the more streamlined '"X" card',
    • The art style for monsters shifted from a slightly darker, more Western-style appearance to much more manga-ish and zany. While Yu-Gi-Oh has always run on lots of Rule of Cool and Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot in terms of monster design, several monsters looked like they could have come out of a Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual, while many newer monsters have a significantly more cartoony style.
    • Additionally, in the early days, there was some issue with templating. The original printing of Flute of Summoning Dragon was the first card to reference another card by name in its text, and it's the only one where that name is not enclosed in quotation marks. Flower Wolf had the word "FUSION" in its text box before listing its materials. Finally, Polymerization said, "Fuse two or more fusion material monsters to form a new fusion monster," without actually explaining how you are supposed to do that. (The explanation was in the rulebook, since at the time Polymerization was the only way to get out any fusion monsters- thus, the card's effect needed to be explained alongside fusion monsters themselves.)
    • When it came to adapting cards from the anime and manga, cards tended to be decidedly random. Some cards that were maindeck monsters in the manga were turned into Fusions, Larvae Moth went from the base form of the Moth archetype to one of its (impressively useless) upgraded forms, Castle of Dark Illusions and Pumpking inexplicably became a duo, and Toons went from regular monsters under the effect of a defensive Spell Card to a Glass Cannon archetype with a whole ton of mechanics unrelated to anything. Though anime-original cards still usually change on their way to the game, it's usually in the direction of buffing or nerfing them, rather than making them do something completely unrelated.
    • The vast majority of early Fusion Monsters that didn't debut in the anime looked nothing at all like their materials - at most, they were a generic monster that had vague aspects of their materials in their concept. For instance, Flame Swordsman looks nothing at all like Flame Manipulator or Masaki the Legendary Swordsman other than the broad concept of "is a warrior" and "uses fire" (which makes sense, as it was not a Fusion at all in the manga and anime). At most, they had the proper Type and Attribute combinations to make something broadly fitting the monster's concept, which led to some baffling combos like two female mages fusing to become a male musician, a medusa ghost and a zombified dragon resulting in a fossil mammoth, or two green serpentine dragons making an orange dinosaur-like one with two mouths. Game-original fusion monsters that seemed to be truly combinations of their components didn't show up until Struggle of Chaos/Legacy of Darkness, and when generic-looking Fusions showed up again, they also had broad requirements—were Flame Swordsman made a Fusion today, it would almost certainly have requirements along the lines of "1 Warrior + 1 FIRE-type". Indeed, this was how the early videogames did it.
    • Many cards in the early game were Palette Swaps of each other—they usually had different stats, types, and attributes, were in completely different poses so the artwork had to be redrawn, and they often had different Japanese names. It's uncertain why this is. The English game had a habit of giving these monsters the same name—for instance, Fortress-Protecting Winged Dragon and its Palette Swap Wyvern became Winged Dragon, Guardian of the Fortress #1 and #2 (even though #2 is a Winged Beast). Funnily, this also resulted in the English game often giving these numbered signifiers to unrelated cards - for instance, Ogre Rock and War Earth look nothing alike, but still got turned into Rock Ogre Grotto #1 and 2.
  • Bakugan didn't have any of the Battle Gear gimmicks or Ultimate Formations that later rebranding would introduce. In addition, the Ultimate Formations were initially Combining Mecha rather than the More Dakka the later ones would become.
  • Less play-based and more collector-based, but in Pokémon Base Set, all rares were either always holofoil (most rare Pokémon) or never holofoil (all rare Trainers and a few Pokémon). Future sets would have foil and non-foil variants for all rares.

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