How to Play the Pokemon TCG

How to Play the Pokemon Card Game?

Pokemon is celebrating 25 years of its existence this year in a big way by announcing three brand new main-series games. One of which managed to capture the attention of the entire gaming community due to its game-changing features called the Legends Arceus game.

But as the games are far from ready to be released, many crave some Pokemon action to satisfy them. And recently, Pokemon TCG has seen a resurgence in popularity thanks to the new Sword and Shield expansion. As a result, many Pokemon fans are starting to pick up the TCG trend and want to be a part of it.

The Pokemon TCG is as exciting as the main series games. However, the most inciting part about the TCG is its cards which tend to become valuable. For example, recently, a Charizard card was sold for a million dollars - now that’s a lot of money.

Whether you started playing Pokemon just recently or have been playing since the era of the original game, you should try out the TCG as it is dubbed as one of the best Pokemon experiences out there. Besides that, even if you don’t enjoy playing the TCG, the cards are glorious; they will be a great addition to your Pokemon merch collection.

The Pokemon Trading Card Game is a pretty straightforward game, but if you look up on the internet, you’ll probably end up reading some complicated guide which is enough to make you give up on the game even before trying. So today, I’d like to give you the most straightforward explanation of the rules, eliminating the redundancy that creeps into many such guides. By the end of this article, you'll know exactly how to play the Pokemon TCG !

How to play the Pokemon TCG

How many Pokemon cards are needed to get started?

Unsurprising, the most important thing that you’ll need to play the Pokemon TCG is cards ! 60 cards, to be precise. A standard deck comprises 60 cards which include Pokemon cards, item cards, energy cards, and trainer cards. Apart from the energy cards, you can have a maximum of four cards with the same name, no more than that.

Now it may take you a long time before you get a complete deck, as most of the time, you may end up buying duplicate cards. To avoid this, simply buy a Theme Deck with all the 60 cards needed to get started. It is a highly recommended product, especially for beginners ! 

How to Play the Pokemon TCG?

The game is pretty easy to play; just like any other game, you first flip a coin to see who goes first. Then you shuffle your deck and draw a total of 7 cards from your deck and keep them in your hand. After doing this, you set aside the top 6 cards from your hand; these cards are to be picked up one by one when you defeat the opponent’s Pokemon. When you pick up all these six cards, you win!

Each player can have one Pokemon as its active Pokemon and an additional five benched Pokemons. If for some reason, you’re unable to get a Pokemon in your initial draw of 7 cards, you can show those cards to your opponent and draw another batch of 7 cards. Repeat this until you have a Pokemon, you can do this as much as you want, but your opponent gets to draw an additional card each time you do this.

You can have six Pokemons on the bench, but only one will attack, though you can attach energy or evolve Pokemons that are battling. This is similar to the main series game where you have six Pokemons in your party and only one is battling. If your Pokemon gets knocked out, you have to replace it with another one; if you have no Pokemons on the field at all, you lose the game. In each turn, you draw a card from the deck to play with; if you run out of cards in your deck, you lose !

On the second phase of your turn

  • You can attach 1 energy card to your active Pokemon or Pokemon on your bench.
  • You can play any number of basic Pokemon from your hand to your bench.
  • You can evolve a Pokemon by using stage 1 or stage 2 evolution on top of a basic stage 1 Pokemon. But a Pokemon can evolve only once per turn and can’t evolve in the same turn it’s played !
  • You can play any number of trainer cards and item cards.
  • Use the abilities of your Pokemon, as mentioned on the card.
  • Retreat your active Pokemon by paying the retreat cost and replacing it with a benched Pokemon

After doing this, you can attack your opponent’s Pokemon. To attack, your Pokemon should have energy attached to it, and to perform an attack, the Pokemon must have the energy mentioned on the card.

A Pokemon is knocked out when its HP reduces to zero. If you knock out your opponent’s Pokemon, you can pick a prize card; you win when all the prize cards are picked up or when all of the opponent's Pokemons have been knocked out !

So basically, these were the core mechanics of the Pokemon TCG; they aren’t that complicated if you follow them correctly. After playing a match, you’ll be well versed in the game’s rules and can start having fun !

Additionally, the TCG also has status effects and evolution mechanics, which we’ll discuss below.

All Status Effects & Evolutions in the Pokemon TCG

Status Effects

Status effects can be inflicted on your opponent if your active Pokemon possess the special attacks to do it. There are five status effects in total. Asleep (when inflicted upon a Pokemon, the card should be rotated counterclockwise), Paralyze (when inflicted upon a Pokemon, the card should be rotated clockwise), Poison (when inflicted upon a Pokemon, place a special token), Burned (when inflicted upon a pokemon, place a special token), and Confused (when inflicted upon a Pokemon, the card should be kept upside down).


An asleep pokemon can’t attack or retreat; at the end of your turn, you flip a coin, if heads, then your Pokemon wakes up. If tails, your Pokemon stays asleep.


A paralyzed Pokemon can’t attack or retreat on the player’s next turn. At the end of the player’s next turn, the effect is cured!


At the end of each turn, an additional 20 HP of damage will be dealt to the burned Pokemon. This will keep repeating until the player manages to get a heads.


A confused Pokemon can attack, but you flip a coin; if heads, you can attack, if tails, your Pokemon is dealt with 30 HP of damage !


A poisoned Pokemon will suffer 10 HP at the end of each turn.

All status effects can be cured by retreating the Pokemon to the bench or by evolving the Pokemon. (Remember, an asleep or paralyzed Pokemon can’t be retreated)

How to win?

You can claim victory by

  • Knocking out all six of your opponent’s Pokemons and claiming all the six prize cards!
  • If your opponent doesn’t have any Pokemon on the bench when his active Pokemon is defeated, you win!
  • If your opponent runs out of cards to draw. This is also known as Decking in the TCG community!

Pokemon Deck Building Tips

  • Choose your Pokemon wisely: Select Pokemon that complement each other's abilities and types. Aim for a balanced mix of basic Pokemon, evolution lines, and powerful Pokemon GX or VMAX cards.


  • Focus on synergy: Build your deck around a central strategy or theme, such as a specific Pokemon type, ability, or attack. Ensure that your Pokemon, Trainer cards, and Energy cards work together cohesively to achieve your game plan.


  • Balance your card types: Include a variety of Trainer cards, such as Item cards, Supporter cards, and Stadium cards, to support your Pokemon in battle and provide strategic advantages. Don't forget to include Energy cards to power your Pokemon's attacks.


  • Keep your deck consistent: Maintain a consistent card ratio throughout your deck to increase the likelihood of drawing the cards you need when you need them. Avoid including too many different types of Pokemon or Trainer cards, as this can lead to inconsistency in gameplay.


  • Test and refine your deck: Playtest your deck against different opponents and in various matchups to identify its strengths and weaknesses. Make adjustments to your deck based on your gameplay experience and refine it over time to optimize its performance.


  • Stay informed about the meta: Keep up to date with the latest trends and strategies in the Pokemon TCG meta-game by following online forums, watching tournament streams, and analyzing decklists from top players. Adapt your deck-building approach accordingly to remain competitive in the evolving meta.


  • Personalize your deck: Don't be afraid to personalize your deck with your own unique touches, such as favorite Pokemon, artwork preferences, or thematic elements. Adding a personal touch to your deck can make it more enjoyable to play and showcase your personality as a Trainer.
How to Play the Pokemon TCG

I hope you got all the necessary information required to get started in the Pokemon TCG space. Reading the rules won’t be enough; you need to start playing it, then you’ll understand the game more appropriately and have fun while playing !

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