Introduction: How to Play the Pokemon Trading Card Game
Before we start, I would just like to say that The Pokemon Trading Card Game is not just for kids and the venues that I go to there are more adults than children. The Pokemon Trading Card Game, PTCG, is a trading card game in which you must construct a deck from Pokemon, trainers, and energy cards. Learning how to play takes time and experience and even more to master but once you fully understand how to play the PTCG it becomes easy. If you are a beginner player I would recommend you to buy what is called a theme deck, a pre made deck manufactured by the Pokemon company to let you understand the strategies of the game before making your own deck. It also comes with a paper play mat with the outlines for your bench, active, deck, discard, and prizes (Which will all be explained later) as well as for your opponent. You can also play Pokemon on a computer or tablet by downloading the app Pokemon Trading Card Game Online which also gives you the run down on how to play.
Step 1: Active, Bench, Prizes, and More!
(1) Active; The active spot is where the Pokemon card goes that you want to attack/defend with. The Pokemon in the active is the only one that can do damage or take damage, unless stated otherwise. When your active is knocked out, you must promote a benched Pokemon to your active. If you cannot promote a benched Pokemon, you lose.
(2) Bench; The bench is where you may put down more Pokemon. To be set down, the Pokemon must be a basic, which means it doesn't evolve from anything. To play a stage one, you must have the basic it evolves from played the turn before you evolve. You may also evolve in the active, not just in the bench. If you want a Pokemon on the bench active then you can pay the retreat cost of the active Pokemon and bring up a benched Pokemon.
(3) Prizes; Prizes are the six face down cards off to the side of your play mat. One win condition is if you take all the prizes, you win.
(4) Deck; The deck is where you draw from. To begin your turn you must draw a card. if you cannot draw at the beginning of your turn you lose.
(5) Discard; If one of your Pokemon gets knocked out, it and all of its attachments are put into the discard. When you play a trainer card that isn't a tool or stadium, it is discarded here. (Tools and stadiums are played until they are discarded later)
Step 2: The Basics
Before the game starts, shuffle your deck. To set up the match;
1) Draw 7 cards, and take a basic from your hand and place it face down into the active. If you have any more basics you would like to put down, put them down on the bench.
2) Deal six prize cards face down.
Once you and your opponent are ready flip a coin to see who goes first. Once that is decided then both you and your opponent will flip over the active Pokemon and any bench Pokemon that they have. In a turn you may;
1) Draw a card from the top of your deck. You must do this first every turn.
2) You may attach only 1 energy per turn to any of your Pokemon.
3) You may evolve any Pokemon that have not been played that turn.
4) You may use any abilities as many times as you wish unless stated otherwise.
5) Once you are finished with your turn you may attack if you have the required energy count. You may not attack on your first turn, if you choose to go first.
This is a very brief explanation of how to play the Pokemon TCG. To learn in more depth keep on reading!
Step 3: Structure of a Pokemon Card
(1) Basic/Stage 1/Stage 2: This determines what the pokemon evolves from. If there is a picture of a Pokemon in this area, that the card evolves from that Pokemon. Basic means that it doesn't evolve from anything, stage 1 means it evolves from a basic, and stage two means it evolves from a stage 1. To evolve, place the card on top of its former evolution. Play the card as if the bottom Pokemon is not there anymore.
(2) Name: This determines what the card is. You may only play four repeats of a card in official TCG tournaments. In prerelease you may play as many as you wish.
(3) Hit points (HP): This determines how much damage the Pokemon can take. For example, Gardevoir GX (shown in the picture above) can take 220 before it is knocked out at 230.
(4) Card Type: There are many different types in the Pokemon trading card game. This type here is a fairy type. Typing plays a factor in hitting for weakness and resistance as well as energy requirements, which will be explained later in this step.
(5) Ability: Abilities can be used as many times per turn unless stated otherwise. You do not have to be in the active to use an ability either.
(6) Attack(s): Every Pokemon has an attack. An attack is something that can do damage or provide an effect but either way attacking ends your turn. This attack does 30 damage times the amount of energy on both active Pokemon.
(7) Energy Requirements: This is how much energy is needed for an attack to occur. Gardevoir GX has an energy requirement of 1 fairy energy. Other Pokemon take different types of energy, and some take colorless energy, which is white and it can be fulfilled by any energy.
(8) GX Attacks: GX attacks are once per game attacks that normally are better than the other attacks on a card. Gardevoir GX's attack is Twilight GX which allows you to shuffle 10 cards from your discard into your deck. This is an effect of an attack because it isn't damage being done. Only GX Pokemon have GX attacks.
(9) Weakness: Almost every Pokemon has a weakness. A weakness just states that whatever type is indicated hits double what it originally would. For example, a metal Pokemon, if originally hitting 30, would hit Gardevoir GX for 60 damage.
(10) Resistance: Almost every Pokemon has a resistance. A distance just means that the stated Pokemon type does 20 less damage.
(11) Retreat Cost: A retreat cost is how many energies you have to discard to get this Pokemon out of the active. Gardevoir has a retreat cost of two, so two energies would have to be discarded to get Gardevoir out of the active.
Step 4: Deck Requirements
Every deck MUST have one basic Pokemon and will probably want energy and trainers. There may be only four duplicates of a card in a deck, although you can run four gardivoir, four gardivoir ex and four gardivoir gx because they have different names. You may also play as many basic energy as you wish, but special energies such as DCEs (double colorless energies) can only be played at maximum of four. You deck must also not contain any banned cards. To find the full banned list look it up on pokemon.com because the banned list does grow but some of the more recent banned cards include, archeops (Black & White—Noble Victories, 67/101; Black & White—Dark Explorers,110/108) as well as forest of giant plants (fogp) (XY—Ancient Origins, 74/98) and Lysander's trump card (XY—Phantom Forces, 99/119 and 118/119). These cards were banned all because they either stopped a win condition, such as Lysander's Trump Card, or stopped the game from being played, such as Archeops.
Step 5: Win Conditions
In Pokemon there are three win conditions. The first win condition is to take all of you prize cards, or generally referred to as prizes. When you knock out a Pokemon you will take one prize card unless stated otherwise, such as knocking out an EX or GX then you would take two prizes. To win you must take all six of you prizes. This is the most common way of winning. The second win condition is to knock out you opponents last Pokemon in play. When you knock out your opponents last Pokemon and they have no other Pokemon to promote, or bring up, from the bench then you win regardless how many prizes you or your opponent have taken. The final win condition is when at the beginning of your opponents turn, he or she cannot draw a card from his or her deck because he/she does not have any more cards to be drawn. This is referred to as decking out and is the least common way of winning.
Step 6: The Start of the Game
At the beginning of the game shuffle your deck until you are sure there is no order to the cards and set the deck in the designated area shown on step one. Then you will deal yourself a hand of seven cards. Pick up the seven cards and place a basic Pokemon into your active spot face down. If you do not have a basic pokemon in your hand then you take a mulligan, which is when you shuffle your hand back into your deck and draw seven cards. You will take mulligans until you find a basic pokemon. Your opponent will draw a card, after dealing prizes, for each mulligan you took so it is good to play a lot of basic Pokemon. You will next deal your prizes which consists of taking the next top six cards from your deck and setting them face down in the prize card area. (to find out where this is refer back to step 1 but in general its on the left side of the playing area). Then you will take any more basic pokemon you have in your hand, if you have any, and put them on your bench face down. You do not have to put down any if you do not want to. When both you and your opponent have gotten this far you both will flip you face down cards up that you just placed down, not your prizes, and start the game.
Step 7: Deck Synergy
Now you might be wondering, what exactly is deck synergy? Well deck synergy is all the cards working together towards on goal. For example, a trainer card may have an effect that says heal 30 damage. This could be useful if you are doing damage to yourself in an attack such as brave bird, which does recoil (damage done at yourself from an attack you did). The card that heals 30 damage can work well with a recoil move, which is an example of deck synergy. In example of the competitive format, Sylveon GX can search for 3 cards as an effect of one of its attacks. This can be useful to search out evolution cards such as Kirlia and Gardevoir to make a deck run smoother. Your deck must have synergy or it will not be competitively viable in the meta format.
Step 8: Playing Competitively
Once you know how to play the PTCG you might be ready to make your own deck and take it to tournaments to win prizes as well as cash. Now as cool as it is to make your own deck and win with it, at any given time there are certain decks that are doing really good in the format, and if you want a good shot at winning, although you can win with a rogue deck, these decks are the once that will guide you to victory. Right now there are about 6 decks that will give you a good shot at winning, which is a good spread compared to other years. To find out which decks are good at the moment look up PTCG meta decks and it will give you the top decks at the time. And when you find these decks change is encouraged to a degree. Maybe the cards don't fit your playing style and you need to add and take out a few cards, which is fine, just the theme of the deck should stay the same. When playing competitively, you must be ready and ok with facing the other meta decks, because others want to win as well. If your deck cannot beat most of the other meta decks in the format you probably aren't going to win that tournament, and the deck is only half of the key you need to win. You must also have experience with the pressure and playing against other decks. If you just practice against one other deck, sure you might be ready to face that deck but any other you will have a hard time with every other deck.
Step 9: Interested?
If you are still interested in PTCG then check out a youtube channel called BulbasaurBrosTCG where they play with decks, showcase deck lists, and do a bunch of other cool stuff. They have my exact 60 card gardevoir for you guys to check out if you want to know counts! If I made any mistakes please feel free to comment down below what else I should add or fix! If you still don't fully understand how to play PTCG get a friend to play with you it helps a ton and you can help each other. But, if you have made it this far I would like to thank you for reading and have fun playing Pokemon TCG!