New hobbies are hard to come by as an adult. That’s why we want to share our newfound passion for the Pokémon Trading Card game, which is commonly referred to as Pokémon TCG. If you haven’t really thought about Pokémon TCG since the cards were banned from your school playground, you could be in for a real treat if you decide to pick them up again.
For us, it happened by pure happenstance. It was a chat one day about the upcoming Pokémon video games Sword and Shield, and an expressed interest in replaying classic Pokémon games like Red and Blue, which led to a friend recommending that I revisit the Trading Card Game.
It didn’t take long for a passion to form, and Pokémon TCG quickly became one of the most looked-forward-to parts of my daily life. Here’s why that happened and how you can get involved too…
Why Get Involved
In this increasingly digital age, having a hobby that doesn’t involve a phone or a screen provides a really nice change of pace. Compiling a collection of cards and building a strong deck from your roster of cardboard critters is an easy way to while away some time, and meeting up with a friend to trade cards or battle is a great way to bring a bit more human contact into your life. The world of Pokémon may be a fantasy, but TCG can help you connect with the real tangible world.
It helps that the cards themselves, of which there are thousands, are pretty much universally lovely to look at. Some are cute, some are funny, and some will stir up those nostalgic feelings that bring you back to the earliest days of your Pokémon fandom. Opening up a booster pack, where you don’t know what you’re going to get until you see it, can be a really exhilarating experience. It’s almost like an analog equivalent of scrolling through a nice animal-based Instagram feed, except with fictional critters instead of cute cats, and with the added bonus that you don’t have to be on your phone.
Actually playing the game can be properly delightful, too. It’s quite similar to the battles from the Pokémon video games, with the ultimate goal being to knock out six of your opponent’s creatures before they can knock out six of yours. Deploying the right Pokémon at the right time, and assisting them with the perfect trainer cards, can get really tactical. Winning is satisfying, but it’s also enjoyable just to pit your wits against a friend and see how it goes.
What You’ll Need to Get Started
If you’re starting from scratch with the Pokémon TCG, the easiest way to get going is to buy a theme deck. These generally cost around $13, and they include one full 60-card deck, meaning that you’re ready for a battle as soon as you’ve opened the box. You’ll also get a mat on which to play and a leaflet that explains the rules. If you’re looking for a specific recommendation, we started with the Unbroken Bonds: Battle Minds deck that has Mewtwo on the box.
If you’re able to embark on your adventure with the Pokémon TCG at the same time as a friend, which is a really cool way to dive into the fandom, you could encourage this friend to get a different theme deck to yours. You can meet up and have your first proper battle, going easy on each other as you figure out the rules and begin learning what makes your collection of Pokémon tick. Having this shared interest with a friend gives you a perfect reason to meet up regularly for battles and chats.
When you feel ready to start taking battles seriously, you might want to invest in an Elite Trainer Box. They cost around $40, and each one comes with high-quality dice, sleeves for your cards, eight booster packs to bolster your collection, and a snazzy box to keep them all in. Now that you’ve got some more cards, you can start remixing your deck and seeing which sorts of combinations suit your playstyle.
Tips for Battling and Building a Deck
Once you’ve got the basics down, you may well feel the urge to start branching out. Buying booster packs and other TCG products is a great way to expand your experience, but you could soon find that you’ve got more cards than you know what to do with. It’s worth remembering that an actual deck for battling can only contain 60 cards.
One handy tip for starting to build your own deck is this: aim to have 20 Pokémon, 20 Trainer cards, and 20 Energy cards in there. Trainers can help you out of tight spots (some can even remove your Pokémon from battles and save them from getting knocked out) and Energy cards are vital (your Pokémon can’t actually attack without them).
It’s also important to remember that you can’t have more than four of the same Pokémon in your deck. But you shouldn’t really need to have that many of the same thing anyway. If you have one Stage-2 Pokémon that you want to use (e.g. Blastoise), we’d recommend having two of the requisite Stage-1 Pokémon (in this case it would be Wartortle) and three of the relevant Basic Pokémon (in this case it would be Squirtle).
Also, as with the Pokémon video games, it’s always worth keeping an eye on types and resistances during your TCG battles. Try to avoid sending a grass Pokémon into battle against a fire Pokémon, for instance, because fire-based attacks will do double damage due to the grass Pokémon’s weaknesses.
There’s no better way to learn the game than taking part in battles. If you fancy battling some new people, there are loads of real-life Pokémon tournament events taking place all around the world – if that sounds like your cup of tea, you can head over to the official Pokémon TCG website and have a look for your nearest event.
More Ways to Expand Your Experience
Spending money on new cards all the time and going to events won’t be for everyone, but thankfully these aren’t the only ways to get involved.
If you fancy getting a taste for the game or taking part in battles without breaking the bank, try out Pokémon TCG Online – it’s a free online game, where you can build up a digital deck of TCG cards as well as take on other trainers in friendly battles. (Also, every pack you buy in real life comes with a “code card” that unlocks digital cards on TCG Online.)
Additionally, as great as it is to spend time off from our phones, there are ways to spread the Pokémon TCG fun into the digital realm and brighten up your devices a bit. Following #PokemonTCG on Instagram will ensure that you see cute critters in your daily feed, and there are also heaps of YouTubers creating really wholesome TCG content on their channels. We’d particularly recommend subscribing to RealBreakingNate, for example, whose passion for the game is absolutely infectious. Truegreen7 is also great!
There’s a really friendly community surrounding the Pokémon TCG, and it’s been a real joy jumping into it recently. If you fancy trying out a new hobby and spending a little less time looking at screens, I can’t recommend this card game enough!
Make sure to check out our 2019 SDCC Special Edition Magazine!