Pokémon Trading Card Game

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Games

Pokémon Trading Card Game
A typical Pokémon card (Dragonite - stage 2 Pokémon)
A typical Pokémon card ( Dragonite - stage 2 Pokémon)
Publisher Nintendo (formerly Wizards of the Coast)
Players Two and up
Age range 10 and up
Setup time < 3 minutes
Playing time ~ Varies1
Rules complexity Medium to advanced2
Strategy depth Medium to advanced2
Random chance Some
Skills required Card playing
1 Games may take much longer or shorter depending on a deck's play style and the number of players. 2Strategy and complexity of play depends greatly on the specific deck's play style and level of competition.

The Pokémon Trading Card Game is a collectible card game based on the Pokémon video game series, first introduced in Japan in October 1996, then North America in December 1998. It was published by Wizards of the Coast, the company which publishes Magic: The Gathering. Although Wizards of the Coast lost the license to publish the game in July, 2003, sets continue to be published, now under the jurisdiction of Nintendo and Pokemon USA Inc (PUI).

Although the popularity of the game decreased drastically immediately after Wizards lost the license, under the guidance of PUI and Pokemon organized Play the game has steadily increased in popularity over the past 3 years.

Game concepts

The game is centered on the concept of the Pokémon battle, similar to that of the video games. By doing damage to your opponent's Pokemon, you are able to knock them out. The different Pokémon characters have different attacks and Hit Points (HP). HP is the amount of damage it takes to knock out that Pokémon.

At the beginning of each game, each player puts six 'prize' cards face down at the side of the field of play. Every time that a player knocks out one of their opponents' Pokemon, they may take on of the prizes they laid down and put that card in their hand. Released in EX: Ruby and Sapphire; Pokemon-ex allow the opponent to take two prizes instead of one.

There are three different ways to win a game. The most common of these three is to knock out six of the opponent's Pokémon. Second, it is possible to win if you knock out one of your opponents Pokemon, and they have no other Pokemon in play at the time. The third way, is if your opponent can not draw a card at the beginning of their turn (an otherwise mandatory action), you win immediately, regardless of how many Pokemon you have knocked out; this rule rarely comes into effect in tournament play, however.

There are three types of cards that you can put in your deck: Pokémon cards, Energy cards, and Trainer cards. All are important to victory.

Pokemon Cards are the basis of all decks. Without them you can't even play the game, since it is required for you to place a basic Pokemon in the field of play before the game even starts. All Pokémon cards are the actual Pokémon from the video game. Each player may have up to six Pokémon in play at a time, one active and up to five on the bench. Most Pokémon feature attacks that would reduce the HP of the opposing active Pokémon, or occasionally, their benched Pokemon (a few can not do damage at all). These attacks require Energy, which come in the form of Energy cards.

There are nine different energy types; Darkness, Fighting, Fire, Grass, Lightning, Metal, Psychic, Water and Colorless. Eight of these are called 'Basic Energy Types', the exception being Colorless. Many attacks require a certain type of energy, depending on the type of attack and the Pokémon using it; if an attack requires a certain type of basic energy, then that type of energy must be attached to the Pokemon. If the attack has a colorless energy requirement, that requirement can be met by any energy card. For example, if an attack requires two Fire Energy, then the player must have at least two energy which provide the fire type attached to the Pokemon; but if the attack requires one Fire and one Colorless energy, then the Pokemon only requires a single Fire energy to be attached, the Colorless requirement can be met with a Psychic, Lightning, Grass, or any other kind of energy. Because of this, colorless energy requirements are seen as a great advantage on any card.

Trainer cards are support cards that allow players to do something to enhance the game. Cards like Potion and Super Potion remove damage from a Pokémon to keep it from being knocked out as easily. Others allow for searching a deck for Pokémon, removing energy from the opposing Pokémon, and reviving Pokémon that has been knocked out. There are many other types of Trainer cards.

Beginning level players often do not realize the value of Trainer cards, but experienced tournament level players pay particular attention to the Trainer engine in their battle decks.

Of particular value are "draw" cards and "search" cards. In most cases, it is the player who gets his/her big attacker into play and powered up first who wins the game. In the normal course of play, players can only draw one card per turn from their deck. However, cards like Professor Oak's Research, Steven's Advice and Copycat let a player draw several new cards in a turn, while search cards like Dual Ball, Lanette's Net Search and Celio's Network let players search through their decks and get a particular card or cards. Championship calibre players know that in order to win games consistently, their decks must contain good draw power and search power.

There are also some cards that are two of the types in one card. A few (that originated in the Base Set) are played as both Trainer cards and Pokemon cards. And a few, more recent cards can be played as Pokemon or Energy cards. So far, no cards are both Energy and Trainers.

A simplified type system was used for the trading card game. Instead of 17 types of Pokémon, only nine exist. There were originally seven, but when Darkness and Metal types showed up in Pokemon Gold and Silver, the card game integrated them in as well. The types usually follow this pattern:

TCG type Colour Video game type(s)
Colorless Gray/White/Normal Normal, Flying, Dragon
Darkness Black Dark
Fighting Brown Fighting, Rock, Ground
Fire Red Fire
Grass Green Grass, Bug, Poison
Lightning Yellow Electric
Metal Silver Steel
Psychic Purple Psychic, Ghost
Water Blue Water, Ice

Most Pokémon have only one type. However, a few have 2 types. Introduced in EX:Team Aqua vs. Team Magma, Dual-type Pokemon have the advantage of being two different types at the same time. Most of these Dual-type cards are either Dark and another type, or Metal and another type.

Weakness and resistance are determined by the type of the attacking Pokémon (unlike the video game, where they are determined by the type of the attack used).

Pokémon that are weak to another type take twice the base damage in an attack. For example, most Fire type Pokémon are weak to Water. So, if a Water type Pokémon attacks a Fire type Pokémon with an attack that has a base damage of 20, that attack would do 40 damage to the Fire type Pokémon. Some more recent Pokemon have two weaknesses.

Some Pokémon have a Resistance to a particular type. Resistance decreases attack damage by 30. So if the opponent attacks with an attack that has a base damage of 40, but a Pokémon has a Resistance to the type of Pokémon the opponent is attacking with, the attack will only do 10 damage instead of 40. If the opponent's attack normally does 30 or less, then the attack will do no damage at all. Some recent cards also have 2 resistances.

If a Pokemon has two types, both of those types are calculated as far as weakness and resistance are concerned. For example, if a Pokemon has weakness to two types, and a Pokemon that is both of those types attacks, that attack does 4 times it's normal damage.

Deck Types

Full Deck

A Full Deck is the standard, used in Premier Events all over the world. A Full Deck contains exactly 60 cards, and exactly six prizes. Almost all events run by Pokemon organized Play use the Full Deck, from Leagues to the World Championships. The exceptions are listed below.

Limited Deck

This kind of deck is seen almost exclusively in pre-release tournaments. Players are given six booster packs, and an unlimited amount of basic energies; and from those cards, they make a deck that contains exactly 40 cards. Limited decks use four prizes per game.

Half Deck

The "Half Deck" is a new trend of playing Pokémon cards in Japan and Hong Kong that is not as well-known in the West.

A Half Deck has 30 cards, compared to 60 cards in a Full Deck game, and each player lays out 3 prizes at the beginning of the game.

The Half deck is used mostly because of limited space in Japan and Hong Kong, giving all players a chance to play if there are many players in a very tight space.


With the release of EX Dragon Frontiers on November 8, 2006, there are currently 31 different Pokemon TCG sets released in English. These sets have a vast range of sizes, from Fossil (the smallest at 61 cards), to e-Expedition (the largest, at 165 'normal' cards, a full reverse-holo set, and 4 boxtoppers, for a total of 334 cards). Only eight of these sets ( EX Deoxys, and all subsequent sets) are legal in the current modified format, which is the format that all major tournaments are played under. A rarely played format is Unlimited, where all cards ever released in English are legal.

Early in the game, sets were released in seemingly random intervals, but ever since Nintendo took over the production of the sets, there has been a constant stream of 4 sets per year, released at 2.5 to 3.5 month intervals.

Every few sets, major game changes are introduced to the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Several of these include: the introduction of Dark Pokémon (Team Rocket); The introduction of Owners' Pokémon (Gym Heroes); the introduction of Stadium cards in the same set; Darkness-type and Metal-type Pokémon, along with the second generation and the new Pokémon Tool card (Neo Genesis); the new Shining Pokémon (Neo Revelation); introduction of Light Pokémon (Neo Destiny); the introduction of Supporter cards and Technical Machines (Expedition); the new Crystal-type Pokémon (Aquapolis); Pokémon-ex (EX Ruby & Sapphire); Dual-type Pokémon (EX Team Magma vs Team Aqua); Pokémon-* (EX Team Rocket Returns); and most recently, the new Delta Species Pokémon and Holon's Pokémon in EX Delta Species.

These changes, along with yearly format rotations, make for a constantly evolving game.

Future Sets

There are currently two sets yet to be released outside of Japan, though only one of those has been released in Japan itself. The next set, EX Power Keepers, is an exclusive set outside of Japan to be released on February 14, 2007, with more than 100 cards. The set after that is Pokémon Card Game DP, the first set to include many new game mechanics such as Pokémon Lv.X and Energy-less attacks. Basic Darkness and Metal Energy cards also debut, along with fourth-generation Pokémon.

Pokémon Organized Play Program

Casual Play

In addition to the collectible aspect of the card game, Pokémon USA Inc. (PUI) has also created Pokémon Organized Play (POP), which is in charge of the organization of an official League program, where players can battle others in local environments and earn player points, 2-card booster packets from a promotional set, badges, stickers and other materials. These are run by League Leaders/League Owners.

A League Leader can/may assist in organizing the league; A League Owner is the one officially in charge of the league, reporting to "POP" any results and/or problems every seven weeks. The leagues run in yearly cycles, based on a certain aspect of one of the Pokémon Game Boy games; the current cycle is based upon the Kanto league area.

Prereleases are organised just before each set is released. Usually, they are run on the 2 weekends before a set is released in stores. Prereleases are the source of the 40-card Limited Deck. Prereleases used to be considered competitive events by PUI, but due to repeated claims of cheating (ie. bringing cards from a previous event to get an advantage), and arguments against the amazing amount of luck inherent in the event, PUI made the decision that it was better to make the events less competitive (by removing prizes for winners, etc).

Competitive Play

POP also runs a tournament program, where they allow individuals 18 or over to become Tournament Organizers (TOs), who can sanction and run tournaments. Players in a tournament are split into three age categories: Junior (born in 1996 or later), Senior (born in 1992-1995), and Master (born in 1991 or earlier). These tournaments play out a number of rounds, where players will play a standard game against each other and wins and losses will be recorded. In most tournaments, there are a number of rounds of "Swiss-style" where players get paired up with others of similar win/loss ratios, usually from their own age group (this does not always occur in smaller events, though). Afterwards, there will either be a cut of the top record-holders (usually the top 25% of an event) where players will play best 2 out of 3 matches, and the loser gets eliminated (standard tournament bracket style), with an eventual winner.

POP runs a season for these tournaments, which allows players to earn larger prizes and play in a more competitive environment in comparison to League. These range from City and State Championships, all the way up to the Pokemon World Championships, the single invite-only event of the year. Players can earn invites to the World Championships by winning or ranking high at National Championships, having a good Premier Rating (based off the Elo rating system, which allows players to win or lose points at any City Championship or higher-level event), or by qualifying in the Last Chance Qualifier. The World Championships is a 2 day tournament, with one eventual winner in each age group, the winner of the Master age group is generally noticed as the best player in the World for that season.

Some of these methods are only used in the USA, as PUI and POP are based in the USA, but they are represented by local distributors who provide the Organized Play program to their own country.

Competitive Play under Wizards of the Coast

Tropical Mega Battle

On August 26 - 27, 2000, forty-two Pokémon trainers from around the world united at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu for the Tropical Mega Battle, an international communication event for the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Jason Klaczynski, 14-year-old Orland Park, Ill., resident, was honored as the Master Trainer of the Tropical Mega Battle after winning the final round of the World Communication Match against fellow Pokémon trainer Toshiya Tanabe of Sapporo, Japan.

In an effort to transcend language and communication barriers through entertaining game-play, the Tropical Mega Battle brought together children, aged 14 and under, from the United States, Japan, France, Italy, Canada, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, for two action-packed days in scenic Honolulu, Hawaii. Children participating in the Tropical Mega Battle received invitations through Qualifier tournaments, DCI rankings, and other events in their respective countries. Creatures Inc., Media Factory and Wizards of the Coast Inc. sponsored the Tropical Mega Battle.

Events throughout the weekend included competitions facilitated by translators for groups of children representing two different languages in each group; a group photo and an opening ceremony featuring remarks from Hawaiian government officials; and a harbour cruise awards ceremony for the winners of the World Communication Match.

Super Trainer Showdown

The Super Trainer Showdowns were large Pokémon TCG tournaments held by Wizards of the Coast, and all were held in the US. These tournaments were frequently bi-annual and were open to the public. Each tournament consisted of three age groups; 10 and under, 11 to 14 years old, and 15 years old and over. Each Super Trainer Showdown was preceded by a series of Qualifier Tournaments held in cities around the United States and abroad in which players in the 11-to-14 and 10-and-under age groups could win trips for themselves and a parent or guardian to the Super Trainer Showdown event.

The East Coast Super Trainer Showdown 2001 in Seacaucus, NJ had been the final tournament of the #1 ranked player in the world Phil Mondiello, before his 4 year ban from the DCI.

There have been four Super Trainer Showdowns; one in Long Beach, CA, one in San Diego, CA, and two in Seacaucus, NJ.

Competitive Play Outside of the United States

Although PUI tries to keep Organized Play as equal as possible all over the Earth, there are some notable differences in how POP is run outside of the USA.

Pokémon Card Laboratory (PCL)

The Pokémon Card Laboratory (PCL), located in Japan, is the ultimate authority on any matter relating to the Pokemon Trading Card Game. They can declare rulings on any in-game circumstance, issue erratas, change card text after publishing, and change the basic game rules, although the latter three rarely occur. PCL is also the company that designs new cards and runs Organized Play in Japan. In short, PCL designs the game itself.

Some recent events suggest that PCL also has the ability to override PUI on any Organized Play related changes anywhere in the world. Without specific knowledge, however, this is a somewhat speculative statement.

Pokémon cards in Hong Kong

Due to the massive imports of the Japanese cards, many local players play the Japanese version of the game instead of the English one. The tournaments in Hong Kong run on different mechanics than other countries. They are operated by two different groups, the official POP distributor OTCHK and the unofficial HKPMA.

The OTC is a new distributor of the Pokémon Trading Card Game in Hong Kong that started up in June 2005, and runs POP tournaments using the American rulings. However, it has the same policy as the previous distributor (Trandy's Creation) of banning Japanese cards (which supposedly can be used in regular tournaments with appropriate reference), causing huge discontent amongst the local players. Up until 1st Dec 2005, the company had held only 1 tournament with only 16 participants.

In contrast, the HKPMA (Hong Kong Pokémon Alliance) is an experienced group that has been running 2 to 4 tournaments every year since 2000. Initially those tournaments followed American rulings, shifting to Japanese rulings after the introduction of Japanese Pokémon Card Players Rule Ver 1.0 in Summer 2003. The HKPMA later on established a new branch organization, HKPCL (Hong Kong Pokémon Card Laboratory), to manage tournament matters, including the organization of tournaments, ruling support, staffing and documentation. To prevent the confusion between the 2 different rulings, HKPCL makes ruling clarifications on a regular basis, and sometimes writes articles in the PokeGym Forum to raise people's concern.

Pokémon in the UK

Pokemon TCG Retail distribution in the UK is currently run by Esdevium Games Ltd and Organised play by it’s partner The Place for Games. The UK has one of the largest player bases outside the US and Japan. Its players have performed admirably over the past few years at the World Championships, including a 4th Place for Fares Sekkoum in the 10- (2006), a 7th Place for Sami Sekkoum in the 15+ (2005), a Top 16 finish for Yacine Sekkoum in the 15+ (2006) and a 10th place finish for Faisel Kahn in the 15+ (2005).

Usually in June the UK Pokémon TCG National Championships, for the past 2 years in Woburn Safari Park. In 2006 around 70 players were invited to play in each age group, the prizes have included Nintendo DS’s, Televisions and invites/trips to represent the UK in the World Championships.

Smaller City Championships and for the first time in 2006 UK Pokemon Regional championships are held between November and April. These were held in Hull, London, Bournemouth, Manchester and Glasgow.

The game is most popular in the South East of England, but leagues can be found all over the country - including Glasgow, York, Manchester, Norwich, Harlow, London, Bournemouth, Exeter, Slough, Crawley, Rainham and many more.

Banned Cards

Although PUI currently refuses to ban cards regardless of how over-used they become, Wizards of the Coast was not scared of banning a few cards when they were in charge of the game.


The first card that WotC banned was Sneasel from Neo Genesis. Sneasel was banned before it ever became legal for play outside of Japan. This was because of the enormous effect it was having on the format in Japan. Decks with Sneasel were winning almost every major tournament, making all other decks un-competitive. This was because of Sneasels ability to abuse the new Darkness Energy cards (which increase the power of all Dark-type attacks by 10), no weakness, a free retreat cost, quickly powered-up attacks, and the ability to do enormous damage. In short, Sneasel was faster and more powerful than any other card in the game at the time.


Coincidentally enough, the only other card printed in a normal set to be banned from the game was also from Neo Genesis.

Slowking from Neo Genesis had a Pokemon Power that allowed its user to flip a coin whenever the opponent played a trainer card, if that coin was heads, the trainer would return to the users deck without affecting the game. In the Japanese version of the game, this Power could only be used while Slowking was active. When the card was translated to English, however, the card was translated incorrectly. The English version of the card not only allowed you to use the Power while Slowking was benched, but the power was cumulative, meaning you could flip a coin for each Slowking you had in play every time your opponent played a trainer, if even one was heads, that card would return to your opponents deck. While the Japanese version of the card was barely playable (Slowking is not a good attacker, and is easily KO'ed when active), the English version was broken because Slowking could sit on your bench, preventing your opponent from playing their trainers, while allowing you to use something else as an attacker.

Slowking dominated the 2002 World Championship (the only world Championship not run by PUI), and as a result, WotC announced that the card was no longer legal for any format as of Jan 1, 2003. This was a very controversial move, because WotC banned the card outright, instead of correcting their own mis-translation of it.

Birthday Pikachu

_________'s Pikachu (commonly known as 'Birthday Pikachu'), was promo card number 24 printed by WotC. The card text says, "...if it is your birthday, flip a coin, if heads, this attack does 30 + 50 damage...". WotC banned this card quickly after its release, because there was no logical way to check that it was actually someone's birthday whenever they attacked with the card. Disproving liars who wanted to do a lot of damage for a few energy turned out to require much more effort than it was worth.

Current Rules

PUI has no banned cards (the bans that WotC placed were removed when PUI took over the game). Their only limitation is that cards must have the normal English or Japanese card back to be playable. Because of this, the only significant unplayable cards under PUI are the cards printed in the World Championship Decks. These cards are supposed to be printed as a promotional item, and not meant to help people collect large numbers of rare and valuable cards that were played in these decks; because of this, none of the cards printed in the decks are allowed in any competitive events.

Video game releases

On December 18, 1998, Nintendo released a Game Boy Colour game called Pokémon Trading Card. It was a game based on the original Pokémon games, but with trading cards instead of actual "monsters". This title was released in North America on March 31, 2000 and in Europe on December 8, 2000. It included the cards from the base set as well as its first two expansions (Jungle and Fossil), along with a few cards that are exclusive to the game.

A second Game Boy game, called Pokémon Card GB2, was released in Japan on March 28, 2001. It introduced a trading card parallel to Team Rocket, called Great Team Rocket, and also added cards from the Team Rocket expansion. This game was never released outside of Japan

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