150 or More to See… An Introduction to Unlimited 150

pokemon-paradijs.comSince talk of alternative formats seems to be quite popular at the moment, with discussion in the forums and John Kettler’s recent article, we figured now would be a good time for an article on an Unlimited variant that’s been growing in popularity as of late.

Recently there’s been renewed interest in alternative formats, either because people are unhappy with the current Modified (here’s looking at you, Mewtwo EX and pals) or just because they’re looking for something new to try. Other trading card games have multiple competitive and casual formats, so why can’t Pokémon?

Unlimited might sound like a good idea on paper – you get to use all your old favorite cards, revive rotated Modified decks and try out combos. It’s all fun and games until somebody gets donked on turn one. Sure, this might be oversimplifying it, but hopefully you see the point – there’s plenty of options, but not a lot of viable decks. For this reason, Unlimited doesn’t enjoy nearly as much popularity as Modified, and the lack of official support probably doesn’t help either.

This is the first in a series of articles covering the alternate Unlimited 150 format. It builds on the concept of 100 card singleton to make a balanced, varied and most importantly, fun version of Unlimited. In this article we will introduce the main rules to anybody who isn’t familiar, explain some of the rulings the team has developed and finally, give a brief run through some staple cards and deck ideas we’ve encountered so far.

Basic Rules

* 150 is an alternative format for casual play. Almost any card, from any set, in any language is legal.

* This format uses a 100 card singleton deck. It can only contain 1 copy of any card, excluding Basic Energy cards which are unlimited. The usual restriction of a maximum of 4 for a type of Pokémon applies, e.g. your deck can contain 4 Bulbasaur but they must be from different sets (and not just reprints/alternate art etc.).

* Start by drawing 15 cards from your deck, select 8, shuffle them and place them face down as Prize cards. The remaining 7 are your hand. From here set up as normal. We recommend pre-B&W rules, e.g. no Trainer cards can be played if you go first.

Errate / Balance / Bans

Sorry Mewtwo, you're not invited.

* Pokémon ex still yield 2 Prizes when Knocked Out. Fully evolved cards printed in sets as Pokémon Prime and B&W series holo rares (striped foil or higher rarity) also count as Pokémon ex. Pokémon LV.X and Pokémon Legend are treated as printed.

* The Black & White series Pokémon-EX are banned.

* Abilities and Pokémon Powers are split into Poké-Powers and Poké-Bodies in order to interact with other cards smoothly. If it requires activating (e.g. uses “you may”), it’s a Poké-Power. If the effect is static, it’s a Poké-Body. If a card mentions Abilities or Pokémon Powers (eg. “all Pokémon Powers cannot be used…”) this covers Poké-Powers and Poké-Bodies.

* The non-Pokémon, non-Energy cards are Trainer, Supporter, Stadium. These cards are never two or more types (e.g. “Trainer – Supporter” cards count as Supporter cards, but not Trainers). The term Item is returned to simply Trainer. Cards are not given further errata depending on when they were printed e.g. Item Finder works as it is printed and cannot target a Supporter or Stadium.

* Fossils which are assigned to a specific Pokémon (such as Dome Fossil with Kabuto) count as Basic Fossils and 4 may be used in a deck. 4 Mysterious Fossils can also be used to evolve any Fossil Pokémon (including Revived Pokémon). For any other fossil cards (Holon Fossil, Buried Fossil etc.), only 1-of each can be used.

* For the purposes of evolving and levelling up only, the exact name of the Pokémon doesn’t matter. Things such as a trainer’s name or ‘Dark’ are ignored, e.g. Erika’s Oddish > Dark Gloom > Vileplume is a legal evolution line. If you level-up an ex it will still yield one extra prize.

* Pokémon SP are an exception to the evolving rule above and are treated as completely different Pokémon and can never evolve or level up into other versions of that Pokémon line. All Japanese “VS” cards count as Pokémon SP.

* You may use as many Arceus cards as you like in your deck, but only 1 copy of each.

pokemon-paradijs.comUnfortunately, Nintendo doesn’t seem to care about anything but Modified, and through a combination of enormous power-creep and ever changing terminology and rules, balance and compatibility between old and new sets is quite difficult to achieve.

As you can see, the idea of balance is taken to the extreme here through the use of a ban/ex list, meaning that specific cards or whole groups of cards are either outright banned or reclassified as Pokémon ex. This approach means that the power-creep becomes less prominent and sets as far back as the original ex series become competitive again, with even many Pokémon (not just Trainers!) from the classic Wizards of the Coast (Base set – Neo Destiny) era seeing use.

Of course a few newer cards become quite unusable with these blanket ex rulings in place, but you could consider it a worthwhile sacrifice, as a few cards becoming bad opens up thousands of other cards, old and new as playable options while keeping the rules relatively simple.

Another thing for consideration is compatibility. Many aspects of the game have been altered over the years and even things that have retained a constant presence have changed names. One of these areas is Pokémon Powers. These were later split into Poké-Powers (activated) and Poké-Bodies (static) then recombined again in Black & White as Abilities.

These rules allow all cards to interact in the way you’d expect rather than, for example, Emboar BLW 20 getting away with an Inferno Fandango with Aerodactyl MD in play. These changes, along with the definitive separation of Trainers, Supporters and Stadiums avoid the official rulings which require you to keep track of when a card was printed and what effects and cards were around at the time.

So, are you interested yet or just need some help with a deck you already have? These next two sections can (and will eventually) have whole articles but for now here’s a brief look at some staple cards and deck ideas/archetypes.

Staple Cards


pokemon-paradijs.comPretty much any deck is possible, but there’s a few Pokémon that most decks will be better off with. These are set-up Pokémon that you often want in your starting hand or to search for as soon as possible:

* Sableye SF (You go first AND get to use a Supporter. Pokémon Fan Club combos nicely.)

* Spiritomb AR (Also see Jirachi HL.)

* Spinda LM (Stops their setup and can be used as a wall against big Basics such as Reshiram and Zekrom.)

Most decks will want to set up a draw engine (a Pokémon that sits on your bench and draws/searches for cards). These are a few of the better options:

* Claydol GE (The best option most of the time)
* Delcatty PK / RS (Ninetales HS / CL is better for Fire decks)
* Uxie LA and Uxie LV.X
* Dark Dragonair TR (Searches for evolutions from the bench)

There’s two other Pokémon from very early in the game’s history that still hold their own today and because they’re Colourless, they can go in any deck. They both work well as counters to pretty much any scary Pokémon your opponent is throwing at you:

* Clefable JU
* Ditto FO

Trainers & Supporters

Just because you can only have 1 of any card, it doesn’t mean your TSS engine has to be unreliable, many of the cards in Modified are similar to many older cards, meaning you can get around the singleton rules. For example:

pokemon-paradijs.com* Pokémon Collector: Pokémon Fan Club, Holon Mentor, Roseanne’s Research
* Professor Elm’s Training Method: Celio’s Network, Bebe’s Search, Wally’s Training
* Pokémon Catcher: Gust of Wind, Pokémon Reversal, Doublegust
* Lost Remover: Energy Removal, Super Energy Removal

Archetypes and Deck Ideas

Lockdown (Fossils, The Truth variants, Ampharos)

These decks aim to slowly take control of the game through an often quite slow and complex setup but win though punishing their opponent for making certain actions or preventing them entirely.

Key Cards: Kabutops MD, Aerodactyl FO, Alakazam BS, Vileplume UD, Ampharos PL

Aggro (Basic Dragons, SP, Haymaker)

Power up quickly and prevent opponent setting up by constantly KOing their Pokémon and maintaining momentum. Can overpower decks that have slow starts but they need a lot of Basic Pokémon ex.

Key Cards: Reshiram BLW, Zekrom BLW, Rayquaza ex DR, Terrakion NVI, Dialga G LV.X

Disruption (Dark Discard, Lost Zone)

Cause discards while maintaining pressure by dealing damage. In one of Pokémon’s only cases of “Colour Pie”, these effects are seen almost exclusively on Dark Pokémon.

Key Cards: Absol SW, Weavile UD, Gengar Prime, Lost World, Team Galactic’s Wager

Toolbox / Flexible (Eeveelutions, Gardylade)

pokemon-paradijs.comThough most 150 decks work like a toolbox in many way, these decks make it their theme and aim to have a solution to every problem and / or hit for weakness. A LOT of searching Trainers and Poké-Powers are needed. These decks can easily change their game plan depending on how the game is proceeding.

Key Cards: Dark Dragonair TR, Mew ex LM, Lake Boundary, Espeon MD, Gardevoir SW

Spread (Lost World Spread, Devo-Spread)

These decks don’t just concentrate on KOing the active Pokémon, but take several prizes at once through spreading damage. Some decks can take prizes before attacking by devolving damaged Pokémon!

Key Cards: Giratina LV.X, Palkia G LV.X, Spiritomb LA, Kyurem NVI, Omastar MD

These are just a tiny taster of the possibilities in 150. If you have a favorite Pokémon you can probably build around it to make it work. All your rotated cards are given new life and those Rogue ideas that just can’t make it in today’s brutal Modified have a place to go. Give it a go either with real cards or using an online program.

Deck building, which might seem quite daunting from the amount of options isn’t as hard as it first looks, once you’ve got a full line of a main Pokémon, several starters and a draw engine you’re nearly there! Each week our player base is growing and more players means a better knowledge of the format overall and more refined gameplay and insightful articles will follow.

With Reshiram as an ex is Typhlosion playable? Maybe!

Just like the cardpool, what we can write on this new format is expansive and the 150 team will be back with more articles on topics like set reviews from a 150 perspective, countering specific threats and type-by-type analysis of main attackers, starters and Bench-sitters.

Gardylade (Gardevoir and Gallade) is already looking to be a popular deck and as other popular strategies arise we can analyse them, improve them and counter them. If you have a deck idea, post it up in the forums or comments section and we’ll see what advice we can give you.

Thank you for reading, we hope you have as much fun playing with this format as we have had developing it!

Reader Interactions

28 replies

  1. CaptainX24

    I love it. I’ve seen your posts on the forums about this format and never really got into it, but must commend you on refining the idea so much.

  2. Alex Hedge

    “We recommend”

    How many people wrote this than O_o

    Otherwise cool.

  3. Yassine Karma

    Old nostalgic cards ?
    More balanced format ?
    HELLA lot of fun ?

    I’m definitely buying.

    Best of courage to what promises to be THE best experience for people who want to escape from the speed/boredome/seriousness of modified and just chill out and have some fun.

  4. Joel Chan

    Interesting. I’ll dig through my collection right now.

  5. Mark Hanson

    I have a friend who I think was in on creating this.

    I will definitely see about hosting a local tournament or two to try and get people interested. I wonder just how daunting a task people will see deckbuilding as though… Haha I know it sounds scary to me, trying to come up with a 100 card deck where I can’t use a single same card twice.

    • Jem Perks  → Mark

      Oh really? Are you some sort of Mancunian Crawdaunt?
      Anyway, deck building is no where as difficult as it first seems, I’m having to cut cards from my lists for local meta techs every week!

  6. Rodrigo Torres

    You have to try:
    Porygon 2 (let you use a extra support) + seeker + vs seeker + BTS + Drifblim UD + Boost Energy…

    • untitled96  → Rodrigo

      Isn’t Porygon2 from the Jhoto region? So if I understand the rules, it wouldn’t be legal for this even though Porygon is.

        • untitled96  → theo

          Oops… I guess that based on the title, I guess I figured that that rule was sort of implied and I started reading the article assuming that rule was in place. So when I never read anything about it, I didn’t notice. You’d hope I would catch on when he talks about Spinda and Spiritomb, but I guess not. :/

          Just out of curiosity, why is the game called “Unlimited 150”?

        • Jem Perks  → untitled96

          The Unlimited part is obvious, the 150 part is just a leftover from an old version of the format, but the name just kind of stuck after a year or so of playing it.

      • draconash  → untitled96

        “Unlimited 150” has nothing to do with the actual rules of the game. You can use any Pokemon, not just the first 150. Even most of the recommended and staple cards are outside of the first 150, so I’m not understanding how you drew your conclusion other from the name of the format…

        • Mark Hanson  → draconash

          Admittedly, the name implies you’re talking about some sort of first-gen format. An alternate name expressing something like “100 Singles” format would be less confusing.

    • Jem Perks  → Rodrigo

      Though Porydonk is a viable strategy in regular Unlimited it doesn’t work as well in 150, especially as a win condition for the first few turns. One problem is you’d have to draw all those pieces in your starting hand and first draw which is quite unlikely in a 100 card singleton deck. Of course, if you’re running a Porygon line in your deck anyway, it’s a combo well worth including, but more likely for a late game win or disruption.

  7. Ed Mandy

    It looks like you’ve done a lot of work and put a lot of thought into this. I like the format. Nice work.

  8. bowser

    great stuff… i’ve only been playing for about 2 years, so i don’t share in the collective memory of cards that more experienced players possess, but a very interesting alternative.

    • Jem Perks  → bowser

      2 years worth of cards should be plenty to make a deck, especially if you can get hold of some Base Set Trainers. I’ve been helping new players at League build 150 decks with just Modified-legal cards. Though they’re not perfect they stand a decent chance and can be improved as they trade for older cards. I’ll make sure to put some tips on this topic in an upcoming article.

  9. Richard Stephen

    I’ve been thinking of playing this exact format but with a “Commander” legendary in the form of any legendary basic/LEGEND printed, including any Neo Shiny Pokémon or “Star” Pokémon.
    Basically you can play any type of basic Pokémon, but only the stage 1 and stage 2s that share the same type as your commander/your commander’s attacks OR colorless Pokémon (like Pidgeot).
    Any Legendary Basic, including the new EX’s, can be used as your commander. However, the new EX’s are worth 3 prizes, starting out.
    And if your Commander ever gets KO’d, it goes back to your Commander Zone instead of the discard. However, every time it’s KO’d and brought back into play, it’s worth 1 extra prize card. So to play M2 EX again after getting KO’d? not only do you lose 3 prizes but if he gets KO’d again you’d lose 4 more.
    Legendary Rule from Magic Applies: that is, only one copy of every legendary Pokémon can be on the board. If another one of the same card enters the field, both are KO’d. (Or if Ditto transforms into a legendary, both are KO’d)

    That’s all I’ve gotten so far, still not sure if it’d be viable (too busy with BRs to actually build a Legendary 150 deck >_<)

    any ideas/am I crazy everyone?

    • Jem Perks  → Richard

      In an older version of 150 (the one with 150 cards!) we used a “Commander”, known as a Partner. In the first big rules overhaul we removed this part as the 15 card draw at the beginning aided consistency well enough and we wanted to keep the rules as streamlined as possible. Of course, if you want to expand on the rules feel free! It’s a fun format so have fun with it. Now you just need to make 150 Planechase and 150 Archenemy ;)

  10. pokejav

    Hez, Thank you for your creative article. You’ve definitely put great effort into this 150 format and I’m sure it can add to the variety we need.

    However, your main reasons for not going with the Unlimited format are: getting donked and Pokemon hasn’t promoted it. I’m still interested in hearing whether it would be possble to create a viable Unlimited format. Isn’t it done in Japan? I’m sure that if you were to use some of the rules you propose, like no trainers in the first turn, etc., this format might be viable and potentially balanced.

    I would really like to see an Unlimited format make it to competitive play, and I’m sure with creative people like you out there, it’s possible, especially in local leagues. I think that part of the reason why other card games, like Magic, are more popular than Pokemon, is for this exact reason. I don’t want to put my cards away once they leave the modified format!!!

    Thanks again for a great article.

    PokeJav, (or a Miami Pokedad)

    • Jem Perks  → pokejav

      Japan’s other format is DP-on, not totally Unlimited and even with the points system in place, it isn’t particularly balanced. Once I decided to drop out of competitive Pokemon, pursuing a fun and balanced version of Unlimited become my main goal and this format is the best our group could come up with. Using these rules almost everyone at our league has a totally different deck (apart from 2 quite different Gardylade decks) and each one seems almost equally viable.
      I agree with you that one reason Magic is so popular is the variety of formats available, there’s something for everyone. If Pokemon took non-Modified formats into account when designing sets, such drastic rules tweaks like in 150 wouldn’t have to be made.

  11. draconash

    I already posted this in the thread on the forums, but I figured I’d put it here, too, for people who don’t look at the forums.

    A good starting place my team has found for just about any deck is:

    1-1 Claydol GE
    1 Uxie LA
    1 Sableye SF
    1 Spiritomb-AR
    1 Ditto-Fossil
    1 Jirachi RR
    1 Jirachi HL
    1 Holon’s Castform

    Poke Comm
    Level Ball
    Dual Ball
    Great Ball-SF
    Pokegear 3.0
    Random Receiver
    Pokemon Trader
    Pow! Hand Extension
    Energy Removal
    Super Energy Removal
    Warp Point
    Expert Belt
    Energy Root
    Fluffy Berry
    Focus Band
    Pokemon Catcher
    Gust of Wind
    Computer Search
    Luxury Ball
    Pokemon Rescue
    Pokemon Retriever
    Vs. Seeker
    Junk Arm

    Bebe’s Search
    Celio’s Network
    Pokemon Fan Club
    Roseanne’s Research
    Pokemon Collector
    Holon Mentor
    Steven’s Advice
    Briney’s Compassion

    Skyarrow Bridge
    Holon Circle

    Special Energy:

    The Pokemon are pretty flexible depending on what starters you like; the ones listed are just what we use. Hopefully this helps.

  12. Joel Moore

    ” B&W series holo rares (striped foil or higher rarity) also count as Pokémon ex”

    This seems particularly unclear! With so many things reprinted in theme decks with both shatter and rare versions, there will definitely be some confusion. Most people trying to play something like this will probably get into it deep enough to understand, but some sort of rewording might help here.

    Alternately, you could just make anything with 100+ HP an EX :P although I assume stuff like Zebstrika might have a field day with that so maybe not!

    • Jem Perks  → Joel

      The B&W series ex-ings can be unclear I admit. The Japanese Holo-rares come with a foil border that really helps them stand out but unfortunately ours don’t. The rules specifically mention cards printed “in sets” to avoid the re-print problem as much as possible, but this does require some knowledge of set lists. It’s best when putting a B&W holo rare in a deck to use the Striped foil version if possible to avoid confusion in-game.
      I’ve found a way to strip the yellow borders off English B&W holos to make them like the Japanese ones, but of course, this can’t be used if you plan on using the cards for Modified tournaments.

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