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Tabletop Game / Pokémon

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Gotta collect them all!
A trading card game based on the popular Pokémon franchise. Recursively, the card game itself became a pair of video games, of which only one left Japan. Really likes making people flip coins.

The starting game play is simple: the players draw their hands, and then set aside 6 cards to be "Prize Cards" of which the player can take one whenever they Knock Out an opponent's Pokémon, winning when they claim all six. The players then play any Pokémon they have (redrawing if they don't have any) and the game officially begins. In a given turn, the players can add Pokémon to their bench (up to 5), evolve their Pokémon (although they can only evolve one stage per turn), play Trainer cards that have various benefits, add an Energy card to one of their Pokémon, retreat their active Pokémon for one in the bench, or attack with their active Pokémon.

The game relies heavily on "Energy Cards", 9 (initially 6, later 8) cards representing the different Pokémon types (though there is an 11th Dragon-type with no Energy equivalent outside of Roaring Skies' Double Dragon Energy card, and the much earlier Colorless energy which has no Basic energy card, but serves as a "Wild Card", being fulfilled with the other energy types, as well as having the oft-reprinted Double Colorless Energy card), and the only cards the player is allowed to have more than four copies of in a deck. In general, a Pokémon of a specific type will have attacks that require Energy of that type, although some do have "Colorless" energy requirements, which can be fulfilled by any of the 11 types. Because the player is limited to only playing one Energy Card per turn, it's important for them to manage their energy distribution wisely, as a benched Pokémon that already has energy on it will be able to start fighting much quicker than one that doesn't. Stronger attacks will require more energy, with the strongest attacks requiring the player to remove one or all of the Pokémon's attached energy, limiting their use. Pokémon also have retreat costs, the number of energy cards that must be removed in order to switch out for a Pokémon in the bench, which is also (usually) proportional to the Pokémon's power.


Can also be played online, though there's software to download first. Physical booster packs and decks now come with a digital code that allows players to redeem them in the online version.

This series provides examples of:

  • Anti-Frustration Features: The online game gives players an unlimited amount of Basic Energy so that players won't be barred from using their favorite cards by a lack of Energy.
  • The Artifact: Pokémon Powers, due to pre-dating abilities, maintained their original name for years before being split into Poké-Powers and Poké-Bodies in Generation III and finally being renamed to a consistent "abilities" in the first Black and White set, almost nine years after their introduction!
  • Ascended Meme: The online game gives players six free copies of Ancient Origins Magikarp, despite the game only letting you have four copies of any card in your deck other than basic Energy, likely as a nod to the Fishermen with teams of six Magikarp in the main series games.
  • Advertisement:
  • Alone Among Families: Card art of the Pokemon Cubone often showcases the Pokemon's orphaned state, such as an image of one alone on a bench while, in the background, several happy human families are shown enjoying their time together.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • The most valuable card from the initial set, Charizard, was hardly ever used in competitive play even in the early days. Only by using it in a combo deck strategy with Venusaur did it work on a practical level. Other similarly overpowered-yet-impractical cards have since been released.
    • There are several "huge" cards that are as big as a book, or are made of 4 regular cards. You cannot play these cards, but often, their stats are so awesome you wish you could.
    • Cards with large numbers printed on it tend to fetch high prices among collectors, even though most of these cards have large downsides due to Competitive Balance. Chansey from the Base Set is like this (though at least it had some value as a Damage Sponge for stall decks), sharing Charizard's then-high HP, as well as any Wailord card.
    • Charizard has traditionally been like this, with high HP and attacks that cause enormous damage (in the 100-300 range) but are way too slow to set up and usually have crippling drawbacks. However, Charizard cards tend to fetch high prices (despite their low competitive value) due to the big lizard's popularity combined with the "wow" factor of its damage output. A running joke in the community is that any new Charizard card is bound to be an unplayable "collector card" rather than one that can be used to good effect in battle. This is subverted with the Charizard from Team Up, Reshiram & Charizard-GX, and Charizard & Braixen-GX as these cards have seen some degree of tournament success some time after their release.
    • Most EX Pokémon that let your opponent take two prizes instead of one when they're defeated (the rules eventually changed so newer ones don't follow this). This is a generalization, however; playing them when you have one prize left regardless is still a potent strategy, and some (though not all) EX cards really do have enough potency to justify it.
    • EX Mega Evolutions are this in general; they have high HP and very strong attacks, but can't attack the turn they Mega Evolve, and usually have difficult Energy requirements for their attacks, sometimes paired with insane drawbacks. Both of Charizard's Mega Evolutions are textbook examples. Because they (unsurprisingly) have attacks that deal 300 damage, some have noted that their unplayability prevents their price from shooting through the roof on the secondary market. The Pokémon Company seemed to have noticed that last one, hence why as of Phantom Forces, they started to give Mega Evolutions a Tool called Spirit Links which allow them to Mega Evolve without needing to skip a turn. The only drawback is the inability to put a different Tool on the Pokémon (unless you remove the Link afterwards, or have Theta Double like Mega Tyranitar EX), but it's a small price to pay in order to not lose your turn. On top of that, Mega Pokémon started to receive much more efficient attacks in terms of energy costs, and thus they skyrocketed to competitive relevance almost immediately.
  • Awesome McCoolname: The Flashfire expansion's name in Italian (Fuoco Infernale) translates to "Hellfire". And it prominently features Charizard, making this even cooler.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Of the accidental variety: some English-language error packs of the Vivid Voltage expansion contained unreleased cards from the 2021 McDonald's Happy Meal promotion... in French.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • Base Set Ninetales could put out 50% more damage per turn, took one evolution instead of two, still had respectable HP, didn't have a ridiculous retreat cost, fit into the same types of decks, and... wasn't a flying, fire-breathing dragon like the most infamous card from the set.
    • In general, Colorless Pokémon qualify. They often lack flashy effects and usually are a bit lacking in power, but they can use any kind of Energy for their attacks, allowing you to splash them into any deck if needed.
  • Bowdlerize:
    • Some of the attack names were Bowdlerized; for example, God Blast was changed to Supreme Blast, Death Sentence was changed to Fainting Spell, and, rather cleverly, Goddamn Punch was changed to Profane Punch.
    • "Misty's Tears" was completely redesigned outside of Japan because the original, "Kasumi's Tears", featured Misty nude.
    • "Sabrina's Gaze" was also redesigned, as the original illustration featured her doing a gesture that could be easily misinterpreted as flipping the bird.
  • The Bus Came Back: The Dragon type was absent throughout much of the Sword and Shield era. Given that the Fairy-type was merged into Psychic, many assumed that it would be merged back into Colorless. However, it was revealed that the type would be returning with the Evolving Skies set, this time with no Weakness or Resistance.
  • Canon Immigrant:
    • Flail, Destiny Bond, Rain Dance, and Nightmare started out in the TCG before appearing in the second generation. However, TCG Nightmare is only similar in an "affects sleeping targets only" clause with game Nightmare.
    • After items gained actual appearances in FireRed and LeafGreen, they all (bar TMs) appear as they did in the TCG.
    • The crazy useful "dash" on the overworld debuted in the GBC game before it appeared in generation 3.
    • The "Pokémon Power" mechanic, which was around since the card game started, is extremely similar to the Ability mechanic the games introduced in their third generation.
    • And in a case of reversal, starting with the Black and White expansion, PokéPowers and PokéBodies were thrown out and replaced with Abilities.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander:
    • Imakuni? Up to Eleven. And yes, the question mark is part of his name.
    • As well as some card illustrations. Search "Pokémon Picasso Touch," and you'll be confused... Very, very confused.
  • Color-Coded Elements: The game simplifies the elemental types from the game series from 18 to 11 by lumping them together by color; Normal/Colorless (including Flying) is white, Fire is red, Water (including Ice) is blue, Grass (including Bug) is green, Electric/Lightning is yellow, Fighting (including Ground and Rock) is brown,note  Psychic (including Ghost) is purple, Dark/Darkness is black, Steel/Metal is gray, Dragon is gold, and Fairy is pink.
    • Poison types were previously grouped in with Grass types (which made some amount of sense, due to how many Grass/Bug types are also Poison). As of Diamond and Pearl, they were moved into the Psychic category, seemingly under the logic of "Poison and Psychic are both purple". As of Sword and Shield, they are grouped under Darkness (likely due to associating Poison's subterfuge-based nature with the Combat Pragmatism of Dark/Darkness). Fairy also got lumped into Psychic, presumably because there are only 51 Fairy-type Pokémon as of Gen VIII.
  • Comeback Mechanic:
    • Most of the Pokémon-star cards had one attack that had pitiful strength but became overwhelming if the player is about to lose the game. Same with the additional attacks granted by the Mystery Plates in "Skyridge." A few attacks that have popped up here and there deal more damage the more Prize cards the opponent has taken, most notably Shaymin EX from "Next Destinies."
    • The N supporter card makes both players shuffle their hands into their deck and draw cards for each prize card they have remaining. Being on the verge of victory just before being N-ed down to 1 card is crippling and can cost the game. The Reset Stamp item does the same thing, but only applies its effects to your opponent.
    • A distinct type of cardsnote  will only function if your opponent has less prize cards than you; i.e., they're closer to winning.
    • The Ultra Beast cards, introduced in Crimson Invasion, have at least one attack or ability that can only be used to its fullest (or used at all) if the opponent has drawn some prize cards or the user has failed to draw any.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Copy Protection: As with the industry standard, real cards will not be translucent if held up against a light. This is due to a black layer of paper put in-between the sides of the cards. It's more expensive to produce, which is why fake manufacturers don't bother doing it.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to other cards, Pokémon Prime makes heavier use of shadows, and gives closeups of Pokémon with them generally looking very serious, or sometimes downright evil. See Lanturn Prime and Gengar Prime.
  • Distracted by the Shiny: Collectors put a premium on the "holo" cards, allowing the competitive players to easily trade one valuable card with little game utility for multiple (much more useful) trainer cards.
  • Gratuitous English: The Japanese versions of the Mega Evolution cards in the XY series set has the Pokémon's attack name written across the card art in English...
  • Gratuitous Japanese: ...whilst the English versions of the same card have the attack name written out in katakana. Also counts as as Surprisingly Good Japanese; while the Japanese cards' English attack names are a bit Engrish-y, the English cards' Japanese attack names are lifted right from the Japanese versions' attack text.
  • Heads or Tails?: Each player has a coin of his or her own. Players flip to see who decides the starting turn order. Then there are several cards where the player flips his or her coin to determine the number of cards they draw from their deck, the amount of damage a move will do, and so on.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: Anything that doesn't do anything but discard cards won't be useful outside of some potent decks that focus around it.
    • Battle Compressor, from the Phantom Forces expansion, which lets you search through your deck for three cards... and put them in the discard. Sounds useless on paper and will be without the right cards, but if used alongside cards that draw from, attach energy from, or otherwise rely on the discard pile to work, it suddenly becomes a very effective item to use.
    • Spiritomb in the Team Up Expansion has a primary attack that lets you search your deck for four Pokémon and discard them. Again, useless, unless you pair it up with Team Up Zoroark for example, which deals more damage for every Pokémon in the discard, or perhaps Greninja & Zoroark GX, which 2 GX Pokémon on your bench without evolution, given that said GX cards are already in your discard.
  • Highly Specific Counterplay: The game tends to introduce counters to dominant cards instead of banning them:
    • The Heatmor from the Dark Explorers expansion has an attack that does 60 damage if the opposing Pokemon is Durant, and 10 damage otherwise. It was introduced to counter Durant Mill decks, but it does have the justification that Heatmor is a predator of Durant.
    • No Removal Gym from the Gym Heroes expansion makes it so that a player must discard 2 cards from their hand to play Energy Removal or Super Energy Removal. It was introduced because these cards were considered overpowered.
  • Ice Magic Is Water: For its Color-Coded Elements, Water includes what were originally Ice moves in the video games.
  • Inconsistent Dub:
    • Several attack names are translated differently from the video game series. This could be argued as Woolseyism in some cases — for example, a move called Confusion in the games causes confusion, but was renamed Psyshock in the card game, where it causes paralysis (it was called Willpower in both cases in the Japanese games). However, others are just different for no discernible reason, such as a move called "Teeter Dance" in the video games and "The Hula-la" in the card game.
    • It also doesn't help that the fifth generation games added a separate attack named Psyshock, a Mind over Matter shockwave that runs off of Special Attack and physical Defense.
  • Item Amplifier: Magnezone has the effect "Double Brain" that lets the player use 2 Supporter cards per turn instead of the usual 1.
    • Some Pokémon, such as the Shining Legends Venusaur, have abilities that make energies of a certain type count as two energy instead of one.
  • Joke Character:
    • Imakuni? is an incredibly weird guy. He has his own rap group to promote the series, specifically the card game, called Suzukisan, which consists of him, an enka singer named Sachiko Kobayashi, and an American guy named Raymond Johnson (who also had The Danza as a minor character in The Movie of the anime) who speaks Surprisingly Good English. He also makes some joke cards and does illustrations for serious cards. He has a blog at
    • Some cards that weren't intended to be humorous cards are these. For example, Slowpoke and Slowbro from Dark Explorers had terrible attacks/abilities. The former had to do 2 energy for 20 damage on a coin flip while the latter's ability can only attack if you have an even number of prizes left, meaning that not only does Slowbro become useless after stealing a kill unless it manages to kill a Pokémon-EX, but it also can't attack at all until you have already taken a prize or you negate its ability. Additionally, Jungle Victreebel was another unplayable card, and even the Weepinbell it evolved from was arguably much better.
    • Another useless Slowbro, from Unbroken Bonds, has the attack Three Strikes: flip three coins, for each heads, deal 100 damage, up to 300. Sounds good, right? Well, if all three coins are tails, you lose the game.
  • Joke Item:
    • The Imakuni? card, which just confuses your own Pokémon... There's even a card just to tell you that it's useless! Subverted when you put Machamp EX into play...
    • The Abareru-kun card, featuring a person who appears on Pokémon TV shows in Japan. It lets you draw 3 cards, making it similar to the already-existing Hau and Cheren... but, for the effect to take place, you have to tell a joke your opponent laughs at, making it a literal joke card.
  • Kung Fu-Proof Mook: Certain Pokémon have Abilities that make them completely immune to attacks from certain kinds of opponents, such as Alolan Ninetales from Burning Shadows being impervious to the attacks of Pokémon-GX or Xurkitree-GX taking no damage from opponents with Special Energy attached.
  • Lethal Joke Character:
    • The original Baby Pokémon from the Neo and e-Card sets, especially the ones from the Neo sets. At first glance, they look pretty bad, especially due to their horrific HP and the fact that you don't necessarily have to use them in order to use their "evolved" forms. However, they often proved to be nasty annoyances due to their Baby Pokémon Powers, which caused every single attack — even those that don't inflict any damage — to have only a 50% chance of succeeding (if the attacker flipped heads). Combine the original Baby Pokémon Power with Focus Band, and one would have a whopping seventy-five percent chance of having to deal with the Baby Pokémon again the next turn. To make matters even crazier, the Babies usually had troublesome attacks that only cost one Colorless Energy and they had free retreat. After Ruby and Sapphire were released, all new Baby Pokémon were Basic Pokémon, and no longer had to be attacked on a coin flip. However, especially destructive Babies like Cleffa (which was like a Professor Oak that DIDN'T discard your hand that you could re-use, potentially multiple times thanks to the Baby Pokémon rule) were so influential on the game that they were "reprinted" 10 years later in the Heart Gold/Soul Silver sets; however, these new versions weren't anywhere near as chaotic as their G/S/C era counterparts, as they were only impervious to damage if they were asleep.
    • Exeggcute from Plasma Freeze also looks pretty terrible with only 30 HP and one attack that is bad, even for a Basic Pokémon. However, its ability, Propagation, allows it to come back from the discard pile if it is ever discarded, which makes Exeggcute extremely manipulable in combos that involve discarding cards to deal extra or reduce damage or draw extra cards.
    • Joltik cards are generally jokes, being 30 HP basics. But one Joltik has an attack called Night March that does 20 damage times the amount of Pokémon with Night March in the discard pile, allowing it to hit absurd damage totals when combined with the other Pokémon that have Night March. Night March is arguably the best deck in many formats where it was and is legal.
  • Lethal Joke Item:
    • Pokémon Flute, a Trainer card where you choose one of your opponent's discarded Pokémon and put it on his bench. It seems like it would only help your opponent, until you realize that it actually has several uses: You can combine it with Gust of Wind, using the former to revive a Pokémon with very low HP and using the latter to force the opponent to switch to it. Then you could effortlessly kill the poor Pokémon AGAIN and score another prize. You can also use Pokémon Flute to fill your opponent's bench with low level "junk" to prevent them from playing their intended Pokémon.
    • There are some extreme examples from Team Rocket Returns, a set with crazy-sounding names such as "Pow! Hand Extension", "Surprise! Time Machine", and "Swoop! Teleporter" — all cards that would break every format they were legal in.
    • The Imakuni? card, which confuses your own Pokémon, can be combined with Machamp EX to deal extra damage with its second attack and then instantly heal the confusion.
    • Surprise Box, from Unbroken Bonds, adds a card from the opponent's discard pile to their hand. This is especially unhelpful to the player, as the opponent can use the card they got back in a future turn, but Surprise Box can be comboed with other cards that rely on an opponent's hand cards, like Gengar & Mimikyu GX's Poltergeist attack.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Donphan Prime from "HeartGold and SoulSilver" became popular for this reason. It had 120 HP (a very large amount for a Stage 1 at the time) and an ability that made it take 20 less damage from every attack, and could also attack for 60 damage for just one energy (again, a very large amount for the time).
    • Some of the Stage 1 Pokemon GX in recent sets certainly qualify. Golisopod GX can hit for 120 damage for a single energy (though it has to have just came into the active position that turn) and as 210 HP, and the damage output of Zoroark GX (also 210 HP) is based on the amount of Pokémon in play, meaning that in the Expanded format where Sky Field (which allow you to have up to 8 Pokémon on your bench) or Eternatus V-Max is legal, it can hit for up to 200 damage for one Double Colorless Energy.
    • Reshiram & Charizard GX, from Unbroken Bonds also qualifies. Despite having a hard-hitting, but expensive attack in Flare Strike, it has plenty of Fire-type support, like Welder, which attaches 2 Fire energy from the player's hand to one of their Pokemon in addition to drawing 3 more cards. Thus, decks built around this Tag Team aim to draw through most of their deck while accelerating energy at a fast rate.
  • Limit Break: GX attacks. You're only allowed one per game and only certain Pokemon can use them, but they're all rather powerful. Tag Team GX Pokemon take this to a whole new level; their GX moves have an optional additional energy or specific card usage requirement that, if fulfilled, enable an even stronger effect when used.
  • Loophole Abuse: Each time someone tries it and is caught by a judge (or the opponent calls a judge over), it's recorded and a ruling given in case it happens again. As of date, there are over 300 cases of this. There haven't been any cases nearly as extreme as Chaos Orb in Magic, though.
    • A specific example that led to a general rules change in organised play was people deliberately breaking the rules, in order to award the other player Prize Cards and thus satisfy the activation conditions of cards such as Counter Catcher and Counter Energy.
  • Luck-Based Mission: There's a lot of factors that rely on coin flips and nothing else. While tournament standard requires all coins to have an even 50/50 chance of landing on either side, outcomes can still be stacked against players. Just ask anyone who's flipped two tails on a Timer Ball, for example.
  • Luck Manipulation Mechanic:
    • Sabrina's ESP lets you re-flip coins for the Pokémon it's attached to once. Trick Coin does the same thing, except it can be attached to any Pokémon, can be done once per turn, and will remain on that Pokémon on subsequent turns.
    • One Victini's Victory Star Ability allows a player to take a do-over on coin flips related to their Pokémon's attacks once per turn (and it actually means "once" — multiple Victory Star Abilities don't stack).
    • Shiftry from the set "Rising Rivals" had a Poké-body that made the opponent's coin flips always tails.
    • Sableye from "Stormfront" and the item First Ticket both allow you to bypass the opening coin flip and always go first.
    • Will from the upcoming Dream League/Cosmic Eclipse set allows you to flat-out choose the result of a coin flip.
  • Magikarp Power: Most Pokémon that are meant to be evolved tend to be pretty bad by Basic Pokémon standards, with low Energy and attacks that do Scratch Damage at the best of times but whose evolved forms become much more formidable than your ordinary Basic Pokémon. (And yes, this includes Magikarp itself, whose cards rarely go above 30 damage and can often count themselves lucky to even have an attack that does something.) This goes double for three-stage evolution lines, where the Basic is awful, the Stage 1 is almost passable but still well below par, and the Stage 2 is very strong.
  • Mana: Energy cards. Most attacks will require at least one. Unlike traditional Mana, though, it isn't consumed unless the attack you use says otherwise (like the Charizard at the top of the page).
  • Mighty Glacier: Most Charizard cards are an Awesome, but Impractical exaggeration of this archetype. They have high HP and attacks that deal inordinate amounts of damage (often in the rarely-seen 200-300 range), but have high energy costs and are very slow to set up.
    • Primal Groudon decks rely on this trope, using cards to stall the opponent while they set up Primal Groudon with the 4 energy needed to attack, which can then proceed to hit for 200+ damage and be nearly impossible to KO in one hit itself.
    • Magikarp & Wailord GX has a whopping 300 HP on a Basic — most Stage 2 Pokemon don't even breach 200 HP — but, as a tradeoff, it's ridiculously slow to use its very strong attacks. 5 Water energy to use its normal attack for 180 damage, and 8 to use its GX attacknote .
  • Mini-Game: At the tail-end of Generation II, cards (including the Expedition, Aquapolis, and Skyridge sets) had dot codes that allowed minigames to be played on the Game Boy Advance e-Reader peripheral, as well as giving card game strategies. After that, while dot codes remained on the cards until the EX Team Magma vs. Team Aqua set, they consisted only of Pokédex information rather than including minigames and strategy tips.
  • Mythology Gag: Though mainly based on the games, the cards sometimes take influence from the anime, such as an Erika card showing that she's involved with perfume making.
  • Non-Nazi Swastika: The artwork of Koga's Ninja Trick originally had the symbol on it in mirror image until people complained and it was altered.
  • Non Standard Game Over:
    • The stadium card Lost World lets a player whose opponent has 6 Pokémon in the Lost Zone (like the discard pile, but impossible to get cards back from it) win the game on the spot.
    • Slowbro from "Breakpoint"'s attack Walk-Off Homer automatically wins the game if you only have one prize card left to take.
    • The three Unown cards from Lost Thunder all let their user instantly win if their (rather awkward) ability conditions are met. Unown DAMAGE has the condition of requiring a total of 66 damage counters across all your Pokemon, Unown HAND has the condition of needing 35 cards (which is just over half your whole deck) in your hand at once, and Unown MISSING requires 12 Supporter cards to be in the Lost Zone.
    • The Three Strikes attack from the Unbroken Bonds Slowbro causes the player to automatically lose the game if all three of its coin flips are tails.
  • Obvious Rule Patch:
    • You're only allowed four of any card, but the exception is Basic Energy (Special Energy is still restricted). A deck that runs only four energy — unless it has some major other gimmick to make up for it — would be ridiculously slow and overly reliant on finding that energy.
    • The XY expansion features Professor Sycamore, whose effects (discard your hand then draw 7) were functionally identical to Professor Juniper of the Black and White expansion. Keeping in line with the above-mentioned "maximum four copies of a card in one deck" rule, decks aren't allowed to run Juniper and Sycamore at the same time.
    • Due to the activation conditions of certain cards, such as Counter Catcher and Counter Energy, the penalty rules for organised play were changed; instead of picking up prize cards when awarded a prize by a judge (thus activating the 'if you have less prize cards than your opponent' condition on said cards), you are given a 'prize slip' that means you only need to take four (or two, for particularly severe penalties) of the six prizes to win the game.
    • To prevent players from auto-losing due to failing to draw any basic Pokémon in their opening hand, they are permitted to "mulligan" — reveal their hand, shuffle it into their deck, and draw a new one. As a penalty, the opponent is allowed to draw a card for each mulligan. That "allowed" is very important — the original mulligan rule required the opponent to draw two cards, which led to the Mewtwo Mulligan deck: 59 Psychic Energy and one Mewtwo, mulligan repeatedly hoping your opponent decks out before the game even starts, and if that fails, spam Barrier to stall them the rest of the way.
    • Some cards are banned, due to either balance issues or other obvious reasons:
      • "_____'s Pikachu" (more commonly known as "Birthday Pikachu") is banned due to the card requiring it to be the player's birthday.
      • "Ancient Mew" is banned due to the card being written in Runic (and even if the card is deciphered, the card is all but unviable anyway).
      • Jumbo Cards are banned due to their sheer size. Nothing's stopping you from playing the regular-sized versions of the cards, though.
      • Most Imakuni? cards are straight up banned due to their outlandish nature (some of them do straight up tell you this).
      • In the Phantom Forces expansion, there was a card called "Lysandre's Trump Card" which has each player shuffle every card in their discard pile except for the card that was just used into their deck. In June 2015, due to this card being ruled to create an unbalanced play environment, this card ended up being banned.
  • Pink Girl, Blue Boy: The Beginning set for the Black and White expansion is split into a "boys" set and a "girls" set. The boy set is black and contains cool-looking Pokémon; the girl set is bright pink and contains cute-looking Pokémon. Obviously, though, there's nothing stopping you from buying a set of the opposite gender.
  • Portmanteau: Approximately three quarters of all competitive deck themes are the names of the central Pokémon of the deck put together. The remaining quarter either involve too many important Pokémon to avoid a confusing portmanteau or becomes associated with something among tournament players before a portmanteau name is formed.
  • Power Creep:
    • The bar is raised with each generation. It's gotten to the point where the best decks when the TCG started some 15 years ago (like Haymaker, for example) would be absolutely unplayable against ANY legal deck today that has seen any play. A good comparison would be 7th-gen Celestial Storm Sneasel to its original 2nd-gen Neo Genesis version; the original Neo Genesis version was incredibly strong since it needed only two energy to deal an average of 90 damage in a time when 150 HP was a lot, but the Celestial Storm version — which is a very slightly nerfed version of the Neo Genesis one — didn't make nearly as much of a splash, since 90 damage was to be expected of a heavy hitter that didn't need coin flips, and was only really good for evolving into stronger cards.
    • Trainer cards initially inverted this, as Trainer cards from the first few sets were so incredibly powerful that you could dig through half your deck in a single turn and freely switch your opponent's Pokémon around, leading to incredibly restrictive rules on the number of Trainer cards allowed in decks and the introduction of Supporter cards in the Expedition base set, of which only one could be played in a turn, as well as a massive downswing in the effective power of Trainer cards. In more recent years, Trainer cards have slowly crept back up in power; while never quite reaching the same levels of power that the original Base Set did but often improving in other ways from the Expedition Base Set onward; such as cards with a near-identical effect simply being more effective, having effects previously on Supporter cards become Item cards or both .
  • Promotional Powerless Piece of Garbage:
    • _____'s Pikachu, where you are supposed to write in your name and birthday, and if it's your birthday, then you can flip a coin to potentially do more damage. Banned pretty much from the start to avoid complications such as actually having to verify the birthdate is correct. In actuality, this card was only a non-playable promotional piece back in Japan. The most common theory is that they simply didn't catch on when bringing it overseas and hastily banned it to fix the mistake.
    • Ancient Mew, which came with movie tickets to Pokémon: The Movie 2000, doesn't even look like a proper Pokémon card on the front or back (and once deciphered, has rather poor stats, anyways), and thus can't be used.
    • Some of the promo cards you win in the game from the Cups, such as Farfetch'd and Mankey, have the EXACT SAME STATS as their alternate (and easier to get) cards. Only real difference is their art and level descriptions. Unless you're going for full completion, you should probably skip any Cups giving them as prizes.
    • The promotional cards received by participating in pre-release tournaments are identical to the card in the set except for a shiny stamp reading "Pre-Release" indented into the lower-right corner of the illustration (or a shinier stamp reading "Staff", if you were one of the people helping run said tournament). In EX series sets and the most recent sets, the stamp is replaced with the set's logo.
    • Averted with most of the Pokémon Detective Pikachu cards; some of them like Mewtwo, Charizard, and Greninja are all fairly useful, and their GX versions are about on par with normal GX cards. That being said, some of them like Snubbull and Charmander really aren't that great, but that's typically expected of Pokemon intended to be evolved up.
  • Retraux:
    • Along with the reprints of Base Set, Evolutions also includes brand new cards that are deliberately designed after Base Set's art style.
    • The official page for the set is delibrately designed to resemble 90s webpage design, down to an Amiga style song playing in the background and unfinished "Under Construction" subsections.
    • There are several cards that are redesigns of old cards featuring newer art.
  • Rock–Paper–Scissors:
    • The Trainer cards "Misty's Duel" and "Team Galactic's Wager" make the players do this. Zig-Zagged on Misty's Duel, where players have the option to flip coins in case of the very unlikely chance the opponent "does not know how to play Rock-Paper-Scissors".
    • A Xatu card from the Legendary Treasures set has an attack involving this.
  • Rule of Cool: One card — Flashfire Mega Charizard X — seems to have been designed with this in mind, as it's a Dragon-type version of Breakout Character Charizard with one of the strongest attacks in the game, to the point of being Awesome, but Impractical. Mega Charizard Y, Charizard-GX, and the Dragon-type Mega Rayquaza aren't too far off, having equally damaging attacks but lacking the whole "fan-requested typing" vibe.
  • Running Gag: A recurring trend with Cleffa cards is that they all have only one attack named "Eek", with various amounts of "E"s.
  • Self-Damaging Attack Backfire: Many cards require coin flips, and you sometimes get a negative effect on a tails. An example is Platinum Vigoroth's Reckless Charge, which inflicts 10 recoil damage on a failure (though the enemy still takes 30 damage).
  • Serious Business: Valid in the real world with tournaments, but taken to near-Yu-Gi-Oh! levels of extremes in the video game adaptations.
  • Shout-Out: The online simulator lets you give Aerith's hairstyle to female avatars.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Charizard, Mewtwo, Gardevoir, Rayquaza, and Darkrai have been noted to receive an inordinate amount of high-rarity cards. For starters, all of them boast 2-5 different Pokémon-EX cards and two Mega Evolution cards if applicable, each with several prints, and all of them received Pokémon-GX cards as well. Darkrai also received a Prism Star card treatment.
  • Standard Status Effects: Akin to the games, Pokémon can be put to sleep, confused, paralyzed, poisoned, or burned. Unlike the games, status effects can be cured when the afflicted Pokémon retreats or moves to the bench by a card effect, and the specific effects are changed. The one-status limit has also been loosened (Sleep, Paralysis, and Confusion are mutually exclusive, but no others), so you can stack several of these on a single Pokémon if you can set it up.
    • Sleep: The Pokémon can't act or retreat. Between turns, you flip a coin, and if it lands on heads, the Pokémon wakes up.
    • Confusion: When the Pokémon attacks, flip a coin. If it lands on tails, the Pokémon deals 30 damage to itself instead of attacking.
    • Paralysis: The Pokémon can't attack or retreat for one turn.
    • Poison: Deals 10 damage to the afflicted Pokémon between turns.
    • Burn: Deals 20 damage to the afflicted Pokémon between turns and forces a coin flip afterwards; if the coin lands on heads, the burn is healed.
  • Stock Subtitle: Pokemon TCG: Generations, a 2016 expansion that commemorates the Pokémon franchise's 20th anniversary. Also Evolutions, another 2016 expansion that commemorates the franchise's 20th anniversary, this time featuring cards directly based on the layout of the original Base Set. Most Pokémon from the set are effectively reprints of Base Set cards with heavily buffed HP and attacks to make them at least playable in the modern day, although a few cards, like Beedrill, were completely reworked from their Base Set counterparts.
  • Sudden Death: This is played with only one prize card, so whoever grabs the prize card first wins.
  • Supernatural Is Purple: The Psychic type is represented by the color purple.
  • Takes One to Kill One: Psychic-type Pokémon are often weak to other Psychic types in the card game. This is because Pokémon that are normally Poisonnote , Psychic, and Ghost type are all classified under Psychic type, and those three types are all weak against each other.note 
  • Theme Deck:
    • Beginner play encourages specializing in one or two types in order to more effectively meet energy card requirements, although in advanced play, one finds that there are enough special energies that can count as multiple types and ways to search energy that sticking to any one type isn't as necessary, avoiding Crippling Overspecialization.
    • However, most competitive decks used in tournaments will focus on bringing out and powering up a specific card rather than having multiple typed attackers. This happens due to the sheer number of supporter and item cards in competitive decks, leaving room for only one or two attackers for the deck to be built around.
  • Victory by Endurance: Stonewalling the opponent until they run out of cards causes them to lose the match.
  • Wins by Doing Absolutely Nothing: Wailord EX decks that ran no energy at all became popular at one point and are still seen in the expanded format. The idea is to use various item cards to heal your Wailord and render your opponent unable to attach energy and damage it, until your opponent runs out of cards in their deck.

Alternative Title(s): Pokemon TCG


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