The Top 10 Well-Designed Cards of the Pokémon TCG

I have always had a penchant for card design. The manner in which a solid idea completely changes the metagame is intriguing, calling me to think about the thought process that goes into the creation of a card that is meant for greatness. A card like Darkrai EX, for instance, has had uninterrupted success since its release largely because of the design that went into it.

In the same regard, I am also curious about the cards that seem fated to give players a headache because of such discouraging design. Here, check this card out:

blastoise expedition

I did not play when this card was released, but at first glance it just looks awful. A Poké-Power burdened by coin flips and drawbacks and an attack on a Stage 2 Pokémon that maxes out at 60 damage is all in all underwhelming to say the least. Krookodile EPO has a similar Ability that is actually worth a little bit of testing because it is not bound by so many unnecessary stipulations.

It is important to note that a good card is not always a well-designed card. Super Energy Removal, for instance, was immensely powerful, yet many players agree that it was not exactly healthy for the game. Jason Klaczynski — 2006 and 2008 World Champion — said of Super Energy Removal, “Throughout the history of the game, dozens of otherwise playable cards have been ruined by this one card. Anytime something needed three or more energy cards to attack, it was instantly unplayable.”

So what makes a card “well-designed”? Though I will provide criteria to answer this question later, it goes without saying that a card must be first and foremost balanced. When a card is good, but not good for the game, it has lost this balance.

I know people have their own opinions on this, but cards that inhibit skill and fun and instead promote random factors and/or a stale format are not very well-designed.

With that said, let’s get started! I will be looking at the top 10 well-designed cards of all time, plus the top 10 well-designed cards for the Black and White era. I will also cover some honorable mentions as well as cards that were powerful but poorly designed. For some, this will be a trip down memory lane. For others, you’ll be introduced to some cards and concepts you might be unfamiliar with. For all, this is your chance to learn what contributes to effective card design.

Note: For those of you craving that comprehensive article on deck strategies used within the Pokémon TCG, rest assured. I am currently working on piecing it together. I knew I would not be able to tackle it this time around, but it’s definitely moving forward.

Provided here is a table of contents. Click on the links to move forward.

Table of Contents

THE CRITERIA FOR A “WELL-DESIGNED” CARD

Provided here is the criteria by which I am judging the cards. Even though any one of these factors can contribute to the overall design of a card, a card is best when all factors come together. Therefore, you won’t find a card like Lost World on this list, no matter how interesting or historically important it is.

A Positive Impact on the Format

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New cards should add challenges to the format, but never be too powerful.

The first thing we must look at when considering the design of a card is its overall impact on the current modified format. Few things are as important as this, since all cards must be weighed within a given context. That context is the modified format, in which some cards rise to prominence while others disappear to the dark silence of a binder.

Consider Archeops NVI for a second. In past formats, this card would have had an enormous impact on the game. When scans for it appeared, many players even noted their concern for a card with such a game-controlling Ability. As soon as it was released, however, it was quickly forgotten. The format at the time, which favored decks built around Basic Pokémon, had no place for it.

Simply put, in order for a card to be well-designed, it must have some sort of positive impact on the format, preferably at its time of release (though this is not a requirement). Cards that help shift a current format/metagame out of strategic lassitude will make the cut here. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Note that when I use the word “positive,” I refer to the ability of a card to shift the game away from a state of redundancy to something more skillful, more open, and definitely more fun. Plenty of cards have taken the format by storm, but here we are looking for those that almost single-handedly “saved” an otherwise troubled game.

Versatility

One thing that sets truly well-designed cards apart from normal ones is their presence in a number of decks. Some of the best cards found themselves in more than one deck, simply because what they had to offer was too good to pass up. For this reason, almost all of the cards on my list could be found in many decks, not just one or two.

The idea of versatility also shows that there are some fundamental truths to the game of Pokémon. When a same or similar concept shows up time and time again (much like Professor Oak/Professor Juniper), it helps define the game as its own. In the Pokémon TCG, for instance, the idea of bold draw power is a standard. Therefore, cards like Professor Oak, Claydol GE, and Uxie LA all carry a great deal of weight in the game’s history.

robustly designed cards

Encourages Skill

The Pokémon TCG is often criticized for being “too random” because of coin flips. While I don’t disagree with that sentiment, better players often shy away from cards that require a coin flip. They also tend to appreciate cards that encourage skill — that is, cards that have to be played with bit of finesse. Power Spray is wildly different than Pokémon Catcher in this regard.

Each of the cards featured on my list require skill to play effectively. Even when the card is extremely powerful (Claydol GE comes to mind), those cards were often targeted by players trying to build counters, so the better player would adapt while other players would fail.

Ingenuity

When a powerful, well-designed card also introduces something new to the game, that’s just the icing on the top of the cake. Victini NVI 14 (aka “Fliptini”) represents this wholly, as it’s not only effective and encourages skill, but also introduces a totally new element to the game: the idea of “re-flipping” a coin.

Some cards try something new but fade into the ether pretty quickly. Some mechanics that were powerful to begin with have disappeared from the game entirely. Can someone please direct me to the nearest Lost Zone? Or how about those “Energy-less” attacks found on Gyarados SF and “Baby” Pokémon from HGSS?

The Fun Factor

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Psyduck is all about fun!

“Fun” in the Pokémon TCG is a pretty hard thing to define. Looking at things in general terms, however, I can say that a player who got donked (losing on the first turn of the game) will have much less fun than someone who plays an intense game and loses. Or will they, since they might very well be annoyed with the fact they lost after all that playing. See what I mean? It’s all very subjective.

Nonetheless, we can (mostly) agree that games played out in full are funner than games in which someone wins on the first turn. We can also (mostly) agree that metagames in which there are many deck choices are funner than ones in which only one deck is played. There’s something to that, and so cards that lead to a healthy metagame fall high on this idea of design. Cards that have contributed to donks, however, lose some of their luster here.

Balance

I mentioned it before, but I’ll mention it again: balance is the first and foremost thing when it comes to card design. If a 9000 HP Wailord ever washes up on the beach of our game, nearly everyone would play it provided it had attacks that actually did damage. Even though it might be powerful and negate the 200 HP Volcarona that came before it, would it be balanced? My guess is that it would not.

THE TOP 10 WELL-DESIGNED CARDS OF THE POKEMON TCG!

So let’s get started! Remember that any listing of cards is going to be relatively subjective, but I feel I did a good job of explaining my decisions. Naturally, these are cards that nearly every competitive player should be familiar with. They represent strong concepts that have been used to win games for years now, and in many cases define a format.

Also, make sure to post your reactions and recommendations in our Underground Forums. I’m interested to see what everyone thinks about cards when it comes to design.

Starting this list off, we have…

10.5. Pidgeot FRLG

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I know, I know, the title of this article is the “Top 10,” not “Top 11.” Since Pidgeot evolves from the dreaded Pidgey, though, I can’t quite give it its own spot. So, consider Pidgeot a 10.5, if you will. In any case, Pidgeot is too important to not make this list, as it boasts one of the best (and most balanced) Poké-Powers of all time!

The thing about Pidgeot is that it divided almost all types of decks in half. There were decks that utilized Pidgeot and those that fought against it. While some might see this as a bad thing, pointing out the redundancy in either playing a card or playing against it (Gardevoir SW/Gallade SW instantly comes to mind), that was hardly the case. Consider Pidgeot something like the protein in an entree — even if it was still the same type of meat, you have plenty of options of what to pair it with. Playing against Pidgeot in this case would be like being a vegetarian.

Food metaphors aside, Pidgeot was designed well because it could go in so many decks. The formula at the time was a 2-1-2 line of Pidgeot plus 4 Rare Candy plus a 4-2-4 of your favorite Stage 2 Pokémon. As the game progressed and the power of Pidgeot became more evident, Battle Frontier would be introduced to the game and the term “Stadium wars” would become commonplace.

Pidgeot also represents the strength of getting a Stage 2 Pokémon into play. Using Claydol GE as a comparison, Pidgeot is better where Claydol is not. With free retreat, C Energy requirements, and 100 HP, Pidgeot excels in the areas where Claydol is weak. With a Poké-Power that essentially glued together so many decks, it’s no wonder that Pidgeot just has to make the list!

10. Holon’s Castform

Ingenuity, functionality, and versatility… all in a card that displays the creator’s sense of humor (I’ll let your mind wander with that one, haha). Essentially, Holon’s Castform was a better version of Holon’s Electrode/Holon’s Magneton, which allowed players to mix up Energy types in their decks with much greater ease. LBS (Lugia ex/Blastoise ex/Steelix ex), a very popular deck at the time, had Metal, Fighting, Fire, Water, Lightning, etc. Energy requirements. This deck could function because of the Holon’s Energy cards, whereas otherwise it never would have worked.

As far as card design goes, this card (as well as the other Holon’s Energy cards) helped make “Energy droughts” — missed opportunities in the game to play an Energy Card — a thing of the past. It also allowed decks to run a variety of Energy requirement types, meaning that Water Pokémon could seamlessly be played alongside Fire Pokémon.

Holon’s Castform was also essential in Delta Species decks like Metanite (Metagross δ/Dragonite δ) and Raieggs (Raichu δ/Exeggutor δ), as it gave unparalleled draw power in the early stages of the game.

9. Holon Transceiver

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The very core of the “Holon Engine,” Holon Transceiver introduced players to an unrivaled level of consistency when it came to Supporter lines. Nearly every deck played 4 Holon Transceiver along with the other Holon Supporter cards, and it’s no surprise — the consistency of this line of Supporters was unbelievable. Okay, so Holon Transceiver is good, but what made it well-designed?

Holon Transceiver, despite being central to one of the game’s best Supporter lines ever, had its weaknesses. It was a Trainer card, not a Supporter, meaning that it fell prey to cards like Manectric ex that could lock up Trainers cards. Also, much like Random Receiver, using it to search through the deck for a Supporter card meant that a player used up two cards for the function of one. Though not terribly apparent, this contributed to the effectiveness of cards like Rocket’s Admin.

Having access to a large amount of one’s deck from the very first turn is central to the Pokémon TCG and very well-represented by Holon Transceiver. It allowed players a pathway to Energy Cards, draw power, Pokémon… all from a single Trainer card.

8. Power Spray

A rare gem from the creators of this game, Power Spray was the first of its kind — a Trainer card that one could actually play during their opponent’s turn! Not only was that unique design, the implications of canceling out an opponent’s Poké-Power were many. If ever a card in the Pokémon TCG represented skill, this was it. Negating an opponent’s Poké-Power at just the right time could easily change the entire course of the game.

Not only did you have to know when to play Power Spray, you also had to know how to get your opponent to play their Power Spray. In a memorable game in the top cut at the US Nationals in 2010, I let my opponent use three Poké-Powers before negating his Uxie LA’s Poké-Power “Set Up.” After that, my opponent scooped, stating that he could not believe I played it that way. The first three Poké-Powers were all meant to trick me, you see.

Another factor that Power Spray introduced in the game was the idea of bluffing. It’s not an unfamiliar concept to the game, but it really shone with Power Spray, to the point that many questions were asked about what one could and couldn’t do when it came to bluffing.

7. Rocket’s Admin. / N

rockets-admin.-team-rocket-returns-rr-86pokemon-paradijs.comMuch like Power Spray, Rocket’s Admin. (or “N” as today’s players would call it) had a way of drastically changing the course of a game. Games were won or lost because of a well-played Rocket’s Admin., and the idea of “skill” was even more firmly founded in the game. It was one of the first cards that represented a departure from the linearity that had crept into many games at the time and perhaps was the first card that helped cement the “Golden Age of Pokémon” (the wonderful ex-series days).

Another reason I think Rocket’s Admin. works in terms of card design is that it directly refers to Prize cards, a concept found initially in the Pokémon TCG. I have always wished for the creators of this game to really take advantage of the Prize card concept, but they never really have. Rocket’s Admin. is an exception here, and it works tremendously well, punishing players who get ahead too fast. In Supporter form, it’s available for everyone to take advantage of, leading to instances in which games are won or lost based on who plays Rocket’s Admin./N well enough.

In its current form, N is seemingly not as effective as Rocket’s Admin. was. I blame this in part to the lack of other “comeback” cards like Scramble Energy and Pow! Hand Extension, as the combination of these cards helped a player mount the comeback, not just one card alone. I also point to Professor Juniper and cards like Computer Search or Dowsing Machine that can lead you to Professor Juniper — it’s not uncommon for a player to draw into these cards after a well-timed N (not to mention the Jirachi-EX that will be in our next set).

6. Claydol GE

The appearance of Claydol GE seemed initially to be a response to the release of Absol SW. However, it soon gained popularity in most decks and eventually became a standard for any deck that required a speedy setup.

The most interesting thing about Claydol is that it was well-balanced. With a hefty Retreat Cost and a fairly commonplace 80 HP, it could easily be taken advantage of, and it was! Many cards were valued for their ability to snipe Claydol while it sat on the bench (Blaziken GE, Garchomp C LV.X, Palkia G LV.X), while other cards did not want Claydol to hang around on the bench — cards like Trapinch SW and Pokémon Reversal would trap Claydol in the Active position to either stall or even deck the opponent.

Claydol also seems to be more well-balanced when compared to Pidgeot FRLG. Eventually, the card creators had to make a hard counter to Pidgeot in the form of Battle Frontier. With the aforementioned weaknesses that came along with Claydol, no hard counter was ever made. Instead, players got a chance on their own to find creative ways to silence “Cosmic Power.”

Still, Claydol was a card that finally brought the term “support Pokémon” back into the game. For players who were around during the reign of another support Pokémon — Pidgeot FRLG — it brought back memories and a familiar style of play. And most important of all, it contributed to deck consistency at the time. With cards like Team Galactic’s Wager and Absol SW around, Claydol was a welcome change to some of the more random elements that had made its way into games.

5. Scramble Energy

scramble-energy-dragon-frontiers-df-89pokemon-paradijs.comOf all the cards on this list, Scramble Energy is my personal favorite. Its strength is undeniable, and just like Rare Candy, it helped evolution-based decks succeed. More than that, however, it represented the idea of making a comeback and added a much-desired level of skill to each game.

Like many of the other cards on this list, Scramble Energy is bold. It was not, however, “broken.” At first glance, it seems too powerful, but in actual gameplay things worked out a bit differently. Since a player had to be in a losing position in order for Scramble Energy to work, one could anticipate the card (unlike, for example, the Hypnotoxic Laser / Virbank City Gym combo). And since it only worked on evolved Pokémon that were not Pokémon-ex, this card was kept in check.

Scramble Energy represented great card design because it kept games from being too linear. In the current modified format, many games are won outright by a player who utilizes speed and damage output to overwhelm their opponent. Scramble Energy, in a large way, kept that from happening. A player could stand to lose a few Prize cards if they knew how to mount a comeback. Additionally, some decks used cards like Electrode ex to intentionally fall behind on Prize cards, only to use the many “comeback” cards available to win in the end.

4. Rare Candy

A true testament to good card design is whether or not a card stands the test of time. Rare Candy has been a functional part of this game for years now and has only seen one errata (which many would agree is unwelcome in the current modified format). It has always been a part of any successful Stage 2 deck, and is largely the reason evolution-based decks even work.

Perhaps the main reason Rare Candy represents strong card design is that it’s an integral part of the Pokémon TCG. Reprinted countless times, Rare Candy is at this point a standard. Its existence allows for the use of Stage 2 Pokémon, which directly translates into a more open metagame. And if you have any doubt about how important Rare Candy is, consider what the game would be like without it (only Garchomp DRX 90 would be a viable Stage 2).

Another thing that Rare Candy did was help define what the game of Pokémon is all about. You will not find a version of Rare Candy in other card games because in the Pokémon TCG the characters evolve to even greater version of themselves.

3. Cleffa Neo Genesis

cleffa-neo-genesis-20pokemon-paradijs.comFamously recognized by Jason Klaczynski as the best card in the history of the game, Cleffa also represents excellent card design. Just before Cleffa’s release, most games were decided on the first turn, either by a turn 1 win or from the player going first being able to play a myriad of cards that essentially left the other player empty-handed.

Cleffa specifically addressed these issues and paved a way for decks to actually function and set up. With the “Baby Pokémon” rule, a player trying to donk a lone Cleffa had a 50% of failing. Additionally, Cleffa’s attack “Eeeeeeek” would instantly put a player right back into the game. Cleffa almost seemed to punish players looking for a quick win by letting them burn up resources only to flip a tails, giving the opponent a chance to set up and win.

The card’s design and purpose is pretty obvious — it was meant to curb the tendency to win or otherwise disrupt on the first turn. As a result, many new decks found some time in the spotlight, and the focus to win on the first turn faded. Players were encouraged to actually play the game, and both fun and skill found their way into the game once more.

If the biggest feature of the Pokémon TCG is unbridled draw power, then the concept of deck accessibility is not far behind.

Computer Search is undeniably powerful, but what makes it a well-designed card is that it sets a precedent for the entire history of the Pokémon TCG. While other TCGs are generally conservative with the idea of deck accessibility, Computer Search turns that concept on its head entirely.

It is this boldness that seems inherent in the Pokémon TCG, and it’s all the better for it in my opinion. Giving the player a chance to search for any card in the deck seems at odds with good card design, but the idea stuck. Today, we continue to have cards that echo the merits of deck accessibility; cards like Skyla and Metagross PLF give players an easy route to many cards in the deck while Computer Search itself has been reprinted.

I can almost see the design team sitting around a table when someone proclaims, “Why don’t we just make a card that lets players search their deck for any card they want.” Laughs abound, then slowly the idea grows and grow until it is finally adopted, though with a major “stipulation”: you must discard 2 cards in order to use it. This, of course, is hardly a deterrent and in many cases can actually benefit a player.

1. Professor Oak / Professor Juniper

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More so than anything else, I believe the Pokémon TCG to be a game of strong, solid concepts. This idea functions not only in deck design (in which entire strategies can be summed up in a single word like “lock” or “donk”), it also works at the individual card level as well.

When I look at a card like Professor Oak from the lens of someone who plays other TCGs, the idea of discarding your hand and drawing 7 cards almost seems like a joke. It’s as if the creators of the Pokémon TCG had no idea what they were doing. What’s surprising, however, is that the card not only worked well when the game premiered, it was such a strong concept that it reappeared many years later under the guise of Professor Juniper.

The reason this card stands on top in terms of card design is that it represents a defining feature of the Pokémon TCG: strong draw power. Like Computer Search, it also allows simple accessibility to the contents of one’s deck. Unlike Computer Search, however, Oak was the fuel that helped players get through their deck. These two features of the Pokémon TCG — unbelievably strong draw power and deck accessibility — have echoed throughout the entire history of the game, and it can be traced directly to Professor Oak.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

There were many cards I felt could have fit on this list, and it was extremely tough trimming the list down to only 10… err, 10.5. Here are some of the ones that didn’t quite make the cut for one reason or another. Nonetheless, they are cards that helped define the game.

Spiritomb AR

I wanted so badly to get this card on the list, but I just couldn’t. Spiritomb in many ways did what Cleffa did back in the day. In the midst of a fairly stale format, its Poké-Body “Keystone Seal” instantly divided the overall metagame into speed decks and Trainer lock decks.

The addition of an Energy-less attack that helped setup evolution Pokémon was tremendous, and even the lack of a Weakness contributed to the fact that the creators wanted to change things up for a bit.

Victini NVI 14 (“Fliptini”)

This card, even though its Ability references coin flips, actually made an attempt to inject the entire game with a boost of skill. Granted, a coin flip is still a coin flip, but with the capability of reducing that “randomness” inherent in all coin flip attacks, I can definitely see what the card creators were up to. Not only that, this card became essential for many decks to prosper at the time and resurfaced again during Fall Regionals last year.

Pow! Hand Extension

pow-hand-extension-team-rocket-returns-rr-85pokemon-paradijs.comBefore the wild cowboy days of guns a’blazin (that is, Pokémon Catcher and Hypnotoxic Laser), there was a more balanced card that was used by many players, and that was Pow! Hand Extension.

The great thing about this card is its balance and versatility. It could only be used if you were behind in Prize cards, meaning that it fell right in line with cards like Scramble Energy, and since it was a Trainer card without any stipulations (think Power Spray with the 3 Pokémon SP clause), it found its way into many decks.

Ultra Ball

For the record, all of the PokéBall cards are well-designed. Ultra Ball, however, just happens to be the best overall. Without it, the game would definitely be different. How much so is debatable, but I love the fact that Ultra Ball carries a fairly hefty drawback by forcing players to discard 2 cards. Of course, it doesn’t prevent the card from being played, and it has quickly become a staple in nearly every deck.

Battle Frontier

Perhaps more than any Stadium card before it, Battle Frontier caused players to coin the term “Stadium war,” in which the presence of a certain Stadium could make or break a game. A hard counter to the likes of Pidgeot FRLG and, well, mostly just Pidgeot, this card shifted the game immensely, causing decks that had no chance at winning before come out on top.

GREAT CARDS, BUT NOT GREAT DESIGN

As I mentioned before, some cards are really, really powerful, but it doesn’t mean that they are well-designed cards. Here are some of those cards, cards you would otherwise see on a “best of” list.

Gardevoir SW/Gallade SW

We will just start here, since these two cards basically defined an entire season of the Pokémon TCG. When I see players complain about the current format, I remind myself that the game still changes, still evolves. During the Gardevoir/Gallade year, hardly anything changed. There were some surprises, but they were few and far between.

Meanwhile, I could not help but wonder about the perfect storm that created Gardevoir/Gallade: no suitable Psychic Pokémon to counter with (especially given the +30 weakness), Scramble and Double Rainbow Energy were still legal, some potential counters were rotated out while others were delayed for release, and so on.

Focus Band

focus-band-neo-genesis-86pokemon-paradijs.comHonestly, what were the card creators thinking when they came up with this card? Much like Gengar SF‘s Poké-Power, this card had games coming down to the flip of a coin all the time! As much as I like to flip coins to determine the overall account of how skilled I am at a game, I just have to say, “What is this trash?”

Pokémon Catcher

Yes, this is where you’ll find Pokémon Catcher (aka Gust of Wind). The ramifications of this card are many, and it’s commonly found as a “4-of” in most decks, but is it well-designed? My vote goes “No.” We all knew how much of a hassle this card was when it was in Gust of Wind form, so much that over the years it decreased in effectiveness to Double Gust, then Pokémon Reversal, then… Pokémon Catcher! Yeah, it makes no sense to me either.

For those of you who want to defend this card, just read Pow! Hand Extension over and over again until you realize the difference in skill needed to play each.

Crobat G PL / Poké Turn

Crobat G and its best friend Poké Turn are here for one main reason: concerns with damage calculation. I can count on my hand to 10, that doesn’t require much skill, and neither did Crobat G and Poké Turn. These cards introduced players to a version of the game in which opponents could very easily reach the damage needed to land a KO.

In the past, the only thing we had to do this was Strength Charm (which was only ever really played in Ludicolo DX/Magcargo DX). Ever since Crobat G, players with a taste for damage output have been given many treats: Expert Belt, PlusPower reprints, Hypnotoxic Laser, etc.

Sableye SF

What initially looked to be an overlooked oddity in Sableye‘s Poké-Body “Overeager” turned out to be one of the most crippling factors of the game: the ability to go first. A combination of various cards that helped Sableye KO the Defending Pokémon with ease eventually turned into the poisonous deck — “Sabledonk” — that caused a mid-season rotation.

THE TOP 10 WELL-DESIGNED CARDS OF THE BLACK AND WHITE ERA

Lastly, here are the top 10 well-designed cards of the Black and White era. I will not attempt to put them in order since we have yet to finish this period of the game and still have the Japanese “Megalo Cannon” set to go, but I thought readers might enjoy seeing some cards with which they have some familiarity.

Darkrai EX

darkrai-ex-dark-explorers-dex-107This card was well thought out. It countered the number 1 EX at the moment, Mewtwo EX, by having resistance to it and had an Ability that has significantly effected our game. This goes without saying that it is its own powerful deck as well. And finally, it helped bring the dark type back into the spotlight.

Scramble Switch (The “Game-changer”)

The “game changer,” this card even has the word “scramble” in it, which instantly calls to mind Scramble Energy. It’s an ACE SPEC, so you know it’s powerful, especially when mixed with cards like Max Potion. I like how this card can drastically change things in the late game.

Skyla

This card challenges us by asking, “what is the strength of a single Trainer Card?” It went hand-in-hand with ACE SPECs and created a discussion on whether or not the card was even useful — much like Colress and Ghetsis, but actually being good. Skyla also supports that notion I mentioned earlier of deck accessibility; many TCGs would kill for a card like this!

Empoleon DEX

With an attack that has historically been great and an Ability that features some decent draw power, this card has always been on the very edge of greatness. With Zekrom BW slowing it down to begin with and Thundurus EX stopping it dead now, this card would have fared very well in another universe where Lightning Pokémon didn’t exist.

Mewtwo EX

I initially thought of including Mewtwo EX in the “Great Card, but Not Great Design” category, but changed my mind in the end because it effectively did what it was meant to do: introduce players to the concept of Pokémon-EX. Since Mewtwo EX normally gets KO’d so quickly and since it found its way into nearly every deck, players had to get a taste of the concept of taking 2 Prize cards when Knocking Out a Pokémon.

Garbodor DRX

garbodor-dragons-exalted-drx-54pokemon-paradijs.comThis card provided players with a wildly different way to play and really brought to light the value of proper metagaming. It’s always been a great deck choice to surprise opponents and effectively throws Abilities into the trash. If the current Modified Format featured its own Claydol GE or Pidgeot FRLG, this card would be an even bigger beast.

Ho-Oh EX

With a weird Ability and seemingly bad stats, this card surprised everyone when it was found winning tournaments left and right. The design of the card was ingenious, as it became the “sleeper hit” of the season. Many players focused on the low HP and mediocre attack, but players who maintained a positive outlook saw Energy acceleration and a quick way to pump out damage.

Keldeo-EX

Just like Darkrai EX, Keldeo-EX has a versatile Ability that shows up in a number of decks. The fact that its attack doesn’t require W Energy is also a plus, since it can actually attack in any deck it’s placed. Currently, this card is used to get out of Special Conditions like sleep and poison and is a fairly effective counter to the Hypnotoxic Laser/Virbank City Gym combo that is so prominent in the game right now.

Dusknoir BCR

This card has perhaps one of the best Abilities the game has ever seen, but here’s the catch: it’s weak to Dark type. The card creators seem to have recognized the lasting power of Darkrai EX and felt comfortable releasing a card with such an Ability into the game. Players, as a result, have had to get really good at getting Dusknoir into play, something that speaks to one’s “skill.”

Sigilyph DRX

This card was the first to feature a hard counter to EXs in the form of “Safeguard,” the Ability that essentially shields Sigilyph from any EX. Klinklang PLS would eventually follow, but the precedent had already been set.

CONCLUSION

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Blasting off!

The Pokémon TCG is a game built upon the idea of solid, bold concepts, and the cards that have changed and represented our game the most show this. From heavy draw power in a card like Professor Oak to cards like Power Spray that require some players to think for minutes before playing it, these cards best represent a card with solid design.

As we get closer to the release of Pokémon X and Y, I am curious as to what tricks the card creators will throw at us players. Card design has always intrigued players, and when a card takes full use of things such as versatility and ingenuity, that’s where the magic happens. I am excited about what the future holds and what cards players will be talking about in the sets to come.

As always, please join me in the Underground Forums for a discussion on this article. I’m interested in what YOU have to say about these cards, so make sure you stop by for a chat!

Also, my All-Encompassing, Comprehensive Guide to Deck Strategies Within the Pokémon TCG is up next! It’s an article that has been years in the making, so let me know if there’s anything specific you would like for me to cover.


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