This article is presented to you by:
When the Sword & Shield expansion set first arrived in English on February 7, 2020, it fundamentally changed the landscape of the Pokémon Trading Card Game.
Sword & Shield introduces Generation VIII Pokémon to the game for the first time ever while also bringing in exciting new Pokémon card types known as Pokémon V and Pokémon VMAX. All of this adds up to a set that features some of the most powerful and imposing cards printed yet. It also means that plenty of those powerful cards are prohibitively expensive to the average player.
Every seasoned TCG player knows that the most economically efficient way to build a deck is to find and buy the card singles one needs rather than playing the booster pack lottery. Still, in a set as new and as high-powered as Sword & Shield even that can be cost prohibitive. The full-art version of Zacian V can cost as much as $50 per card…and you’re going to want to run at least three of them per deck.
Thankfully, not every deck needs a Zacian V to remain competitive. There are plenty of good cards from Sword & Shield that won’t break the bank…and some other non top-of-the-line cards that are worth digging into your pockets a little more for.
Here we’ve gathered some of the best cards for Sword & Shield for every budget, showing that quality and value can be had for $1 all the way up to $45.
Price: $1.69 – $2.69
“Oranguru Control” is already a viable competitive format via the Ultra Prism version of Oranguru and it’s easy to see this new guy keeping up the legacy. While no longer unheard of, 120 HP is certainly impressive for a basic Pokémon. Add in a cheap, effective attack and a useful Ability and you’ve got yourself an affordable winner.
We love our drummer boy, don’t we folks? Waiting around for a Stage 2 Evolution is never ideal in the fast-paced world of the Pokémon TCG. But at least Rillaboom (both Sword & Shield versions of him) is worth that wait. Which copy of Rillaboom should you go with? Either will work out just fine and the cost difference is negligible. We’re partial to the Voltage Beat edition. The ability to create a consistent assembly line of grass energy is something you can really build around.
Sword & Shield proved to be quite a set for the whole Obstagoon evolutionary tree. Galarian Zigzagoon is already seeing some competitive play on his own as a Basic Pokémon. Why not go with the whole set here to power up your deck since all three cards can be had for cheap? And thanks to the Ability “Untamed Shout,” there are some real rewards once you get this Obstagoon on the field.
Tapu Koko V
Price: $3.60 – $4.04
Now things are getting fun. Are you sad that you can’t afford an absolute tank like Zacian V? No need to be as Tapu Koko V is a great budget option. 200 HP and attack is, needless to say, legit. And don’t sleep on any first attack that allows for card draw as well.
Price: $2.95 – $4.95
You wanted a Zacian V killer? Say no more, fam. When your fully-powered Victini V encounters a fully-powered Zacian V, your guy has the capacity to do 300 damage in a single attack (thanks to the two energy cards attached to Victini V, three to Zacian V and the latter’s 2x fire weakness). Imagine your delight when your $3 Poke nets you two prizes at the expense of a $30-$50 card. And even if you don’t come across Zacian (though he’s a big presence in the meta currently), Victini V’s first attack makes him essential to any fire deck.
Price $2.99 – $4.95
Look at how many affordable Pokémon V there are in Sword & Shield! Lapras V’s 210 HP and second attack are obviously formidable. At first glance, that first attack that powers Lapras V up at the expense of sacrificing his active status seems like a drawback. But surely there will be many ways to exploit that, making Lapras V the ultimate hit and run champion of this set.
It’s always a great sign for a set’s long-term viability when it presents some cards that are just flat out upgrades over older ones. Air Balloon is simply a better version of Escape Board from the Ultra Prism set. Run a few for some of your slower Pokémon. And be sure to check out that gorgeous full golden art version if you’ve got the funds.
There’s going to be a lot of churn and burn through your average game of Pokémon and a lot of Pokémon and the energies attached to them are going to end up in the discard pile. Running at least a couple Ordinary Rods is essential to repopulating your deck with these fallen heroes.
If you’re going to run a Lapras V, might as well run its VMAX older sibling as well. G-Max Pump is your typical Hydro Pump-style attack that gets stronger as it gains Energy. But that 90 starting point is already impressive. Even more impressive is its cost of solely colorless Energy (unless you want to pump it up further). Lapras VMAX’s 320 HP is also the third highest in the whole set.
Now this one may be purely an aesthetic choice. Look at how happy and adorably fearsome Morpeko VMAX is on his lovely full-art ultra rare card! If nothing else, you can just frame this guy and display him somewhere in your room. But should you want to throw him in a deck, you’ll enjoy those results too. Max Discharge is sneakily among the best VMax attacks thanks to the hefty bench damage it can dish out.
Metal Saucer is an excellent example of just how widely prices vary in this latest set. The standard uncommon version of this card can cost as little as 99 cents (or even less if used). But the Secret Rare version can fetch as much as $15! Such is the difference in rarity and art quality in the two versions. Regardless of which one you choose, however, Metal Saucer is a crucial part to any Metal-oriented deck.
No deck has any business running fewer than three copies of Professor’s Research. In any game of Pokémon, you need cards and Prof’s Research is how you get them. The good news here is that unless you want to splurge on the full art version, any copy of this Professor Magnolia card should be well under $5.
His name is Snorlax VMAX, slob of slobs. Look up his works, ye mighty, and despair! Suffice it to say, Snorlax VMAX is a high-cost option for anyone prepared to just tear their opponent to pieces. Snorlax’s 340 HP is a new record for any Pokémon card allowed in competitive play. And that attack can reach a total of 210 damage for three colorless Energy. From a purely collecting perspective, Snorlax VMAX might end up being one of the three definitive cards remembered from this set for a long time.
Marnie is another super high cost variance Supporter from this set. The usual rare version of her can be had for under $5. The full art Hyper Rare can approach $30. In terms of playability, Professor’s Research may be more consistent and therefore more valuable than Marnie.. But when timed well, Marnie can be an even bigger card advantage swing than Magnolia’s card. Not only that but Marnie keeps your deck packed for those rare occasions that decking oneself might be a concern.
The release of Sword & Shield has by and large been dominated by the ultra powerful Zacian V. That makes sense as not only is Zacian V likely the best card of the whole set, but people just seem to enjoy Sword-themed things more than Shields (Pokémon Sword for the Nintendo Switch has sold many more copies than its Shield counterpart). But still don’t sleep on Zacian’s legendary buddy Zamazenta. Dauntless Shield is a decent enough Ability should the competitive meta become dominated by copies of Snorlax VMAX. But it’s that attack that is truly Zamazenta V’s best feature.