The TCG Design Thread


I Guess you could think that, but Pokemon, like any other game is going to change over the years. I don’t think it’s could to lets what we think the game should be, base on something from around 10 years ago affect our enjoyment of todays game. We have to accept that Pokemon has evolved :wink: and we need to evolve with it, instead of being stuck in the past. You need to ask your self a question. Are you enjoying your self? I hope the answer is yes, so stop complaining and start play testing.


When someone is relentlessly negative, especially when it is largely or totally unfounded, it can really make it hard to enjoy something you otherwise love.

I do not believe that to be the case here and the “Who cares? Just have fun!” attitude actually makes it harder for some of us to have said fun. Why? For starters, some of us just enjoy discussing such matters! So when you’re literally telling them their analysis is just complaining and that they need to simply have fun… you’re both insulting them and giving them a contradictory message.

Otherwise… quality matters. Do you never recognize the differences between the way things can be done? Someone helps you out by providing a meal; someone with a lot of disposable income or a lot of spare food from their own meal can help you without significantly inconveniencing themselves while someone else might be able to help you out but its going to force them to take time they normally wouldn’t to fix a meal, or divert resources they will notice to cover a meal for you. In all cases, people are helping, but it affects each of them differently; the same level of gratitude in each case may be inappropriate. Now… what happens when quality is considered? When someone can do better but simply chooses not to?

So… those of us who like to consider where the game has been are just being savvy consumers. You don’t have to do it yourself and you don’t have to like it and you don’t even have to understand, but as another player I’d like you to take another moment to think about it. You can settle for less, but if you think someone asks too much of something, I’d prefer you gave a more substantial reason. Yes, the other extreme is also a serious problem; when those making the product or offering the service are confused because their customers can’t agree on what they (the customers) actually want. The thing is to find the middle ground where you recognize the quality of what you’re getting and whether it is worth discussing or not.

I think it is worth discussing, though probably not on this thread. :wink:


Oh wow! I see how that would balance the game.
I totally agree!


Are you trying to be sarcastic? I can’t tell.

(This post goes off the impresson you ARE being sarcastic)

What I moreso mean is that 180HP just isn’t fair when it’s on a simple Basic that you can just throw down. Remember when people said that Torterra Lvl X was a big burly tank with the 160HP it had? You not only had to evolve it up to a Stage 2, but then you would have to play down the level X, and it’s not like you could play down the level X while you keep the Torterra safe on the bench: You could only Level Up your Active.
Now, if I was to tell you around that time that there was going to be a super strong Dragonite card with 180HP, you would probably assume it would be some kind of Level X with bad attacks to make up for it, right?
Well, it’s actually just a Basic that you can play immediately, and it has an attack that does 120 for 3 with a single discard, AND it gets an Ability that moves Energy immediately to it! Doesn’t that sound broken? Well, it isn’t. Dragonite-EX saw a pretty average amount of play when it was first released, and it pretty much died out by the time Primal Clash released because of the rise in Seismitoad-EX/Hammers and Mega Gardevoir-EX. So, yeah. That alone should tell you a lot about this format.

(This post goes off the impression you AREN’T being sarcastic)

I know, right? It would be so awesome to see cool cards like Ancient Rhyperior and Greninja XY seeing play alongside the big Basics of today!

Sorry if I myself sounded sarcastic in my writing, but I’m just kind of disappointed by the small margin of Stage 2 decks that are actually being used. All I can think of that have been successful recently are Klinklang, Magnezone, Dusknoir, and the Archie comboes.


Lol no.
I’m being truthful, it actually makes sense.
I also am interested in an increase of play of evolution decks. I will forever be proud of Ishaan J. for winning 2014 Nats with Empoleon.


Honestly, I don’t think there are all that many people that would prefer a format where Big Basics and Tanky Megas rule the format.
I quickly made a Strawpoll to see everyone else’s thoughts on what their preferred archetype is, mostly to stop long discussions that could be resolved with 1 click.


Why isn’t it fair? I realize that many subscribe to the notion that Basics should be “less” than Evolutions, but does that not run contrary to actual balance? When Basics are artificially smaller or weaker, it creates imbalance; there are formats where Evolutions ruled and Basics cooled… their heels because so few were worth running and rarely as a deck’s focus.

There are multiple issues with game balance to discuss; Pokémon-EX are worth two Prizes; why is it “fair” for there to be an HP cap lower than that of something worth one Prize? Why is it something that needs to be hit for 90 damage twice is somehow more durable and successful than something that needs to be hit for 130 damage twice… because the latter are two 130 HP Basic Pokémon?

You (and @10foulz and anyone else wishing to discuss it) will find more detailed arguments in the thread I linked to earlier. The answers to the questions I just gave are the starting point… but since it runs counter to how the TCG has operated for most of its lifespan and how the video game “trains” us to approach the matter, I’ll just elaborate a bit here. :wink:

We are in a format with some of the most rapid pacing we have ever seen; a good deck will strive to be finished with its core set-up by its second turn and would prefer to have it complete on that very first turn when possible. This enables an offense that easily overwhelms the HP scores on Evolving Basic Pokémon. This already leads to two additional questions:

  1. Should Evolving Basic Pokémon have more HP?

  2. Is the pace of the game too fast?

It might lead to more questions, but these are the two I think I can answer, and in both cases it is a resounding "Yes!" In the video games, your Evolving Pokémon have the chance to level up through facing off against computer controlled opponents whom you choose to face (even if it means subjecting yourself to random encounters). The TCG cannot adequately replicate this, so instead you may effectively have someone with their freshly hatched Level 5 Charmander squaring off against another person’s Level 100 Mewtwo… and instead of having all your Pokémon in play at once, you’ll acquire them as time goes on.

So instead of using the video game model where Evolving Basic has X HP, Stage 1 has 1.5 HP and the Stage 2 form has something like 2X HP… give the highest Stage of Evolution an HP score appropriate to its HP, Defense and Special Defense (I know of no better way to replicate the cumulative effects of all three stats that are common to all cards) and from there, arrive at HP scores for the Stage 1 and Basic of the line by deducting a suitable amount from the HP of the Stage 2. The appropriate amount should leave the give solid odds of surviving a hit to the Evolving Basic Pokémon.

HP scores in general are too low, especially when compared to the damage output we currently see; a game can be fast paced without a KO or three each turn. =P The current model isn’t even that close to the video games, where HP scores can be as low as 1 and above 700 (I forget the actual maximum). The TCG cannot handle this wide of a range, but sticking with units of 10, I recommend a higher minimum than the current 30 (again, something that has a prayer of surviving at least the low end of attacks) and then testing to see what is the highest that can easily be tracked in the usual methods by players. The “damage counter” as we know it may need to be replaced with a system similar to U.S. coinage; a few scores are awkward but most really aren’t. This might actually be better than using dice, as a quarter isn’t going to get bumped and roll.

The other big thing is pacing set-up in general; fully Evolved Pokémon (whatever their Stage is) should be designed to be equals. Special mechanics (like being a Pokémon-EX) can and should purchase superior capability, though (unlike many actual Pokémon-EX) it must be properly balanced. Nerfing the HP as described above would help… but think of it as treating the symptoms and not the disease. “Help” is also relative; most of the competitive cardpool is “stupid good” and I don’t fancy a format where “Dude, you have to build your deck around a Stage 2 or you’ll lose!” anymore than I want to be stuck focusing primarily on Pokémon-EX.

So the designers need to stop releasing so much acceleration, especially generic forms and/or forms that are available first/second turn of the game. Don’t make “big Basic” Pokémon that can be opener, main attacker and sweeper; splitting those positions and leaving the “big attacker” with nothing worthwhile it can do (re: it needs 3-4 Energy to attack and there aren’t super-special-awesome shortcuts to do so) means it makes more sense to run an opener and have to attach some to it… like you do with most Evolutions. Stop making lower Stages pure filler; we get a taste of how it should be done with the Crobat (PHF) line. Imagine if you got a decent “opener” in the form of the Evolving Basic, a Stage 1 that was a decent opening attacker or (not “and”) decent closer or maybe wasn’t good at either but it had a good supporting Ability, etc

TL;DR: Other thread has discussion on this stuff. Consider pacing the game and bumping HP scores without bumping damage output. Consider making an Evolution a combo where all the pieces contribute and Basics a combo unless you want to have to wait three turns before it kicks in.


I agree with @Otaku. This is a more suitable place for this discussion.

In a ideal world, I guess I would like to see a variety of Stages being playable. It’s silly to make people choose between Stage 2s and Big Basics when we could have both.

However, the differences (in this ideal world) should be meaningful. This is why I see no merit in, say, making Stage 2s as fast as Basics, or merely reducing EX Pokemon HP.


Aye, the differences were intended to be there. Obviously I’m still cruising on pure theory, but we’ve never really had a format where we had a crackdown on pacing that didn’t overlap with “Oh, and nerf [insert Stage] as well.” I am not sure why that is, and maybe I’ve messed up and I just don’t remember that period.


Let’s Look quickly at past formats [feel free to correct me]

Gen 1 era: Even [3 decks. Haymaker [Basics], Do The Wave [Stage 1] Blastoise [Stage 2]

Gen 2 era: Evolutions [Feraligatr, Scizor/Furret, Entei/Magcargo {in the inverse of what is usually seen today, the basic entei was support and the evolved magcargo was attacking}]

Gen 3 era: Evolved Pokémon-EX [Gardevoir, Blaziken, Tyranitar, Queendom [Nidoqueen/Pidgeot], Metanite, ETC]

DP era: Hard to say. At one end, there were many more evolved Pokémon decks like Gyarados, Jumpluff, Gardy/Gallade, Flygon, Machamp, Scizor/Cherrim, VileGar, CurseGar, the list goes on and on. But basic decks had their say, most notably with SP, which, while outnumbered, was just as strong, or even stronger than SP.

HS-NVI era: Stage 2s like Vileplume, Emboar, Magnezone Prime, Gothitelle, Typhlosion Prime and even Gengar Prime were prevalent, with Stage 1s like Donphan Prime, Yanmega Prime, Cinccino, Zoroark, and there’s probably more I’m missing filled out their own archetype. Eelektrik filled another archetype, pairing with Zekrom. Reshiram was used with Emboar and Typhlosion, and Zekrom, with Tornadus, Pachirisu, and Shaymin, created the “all fast basic action” deck.

NXD and forwards were these large, overpowered basics and mega evolutions taking over everything, but I’m assuming everyone reading this is familiar with that because thats where we are right now.

It’s up to you guys to decide where you’d like the design to go, I’m just laying this out here.


I think that the most balanced metagame would be with all stages of Evolution and all elemental Types on the same playing field. Lightning Types would be just as strong as Fighting and Grass Types, Stage 2 decks would be on the same level as Mega decks, and so forth.


That goes without saying. The question is how.

A couple of months ago, the community of ptcgo reddit held a tournament where only Pokémon with evolved forms (excluding Mega Evolutions) are allowed to enter, with the exception of Donphan. It hasn’t ended yet, with us still waiting for the top 16 to be resolved, but from what I know about the decks that made it to top cut, we have:

Top 2

Empoleon Swampert~

Top 4

Excadrill Garbodor~
Trevenant Slurpuff Forretress

Top 8

Jolteon Bats (myself)
Trevenant Slurpuff (MikePTCGO)

Top 16

Zoroark Team Magma’s Poochyena

*~ Still in.

Once the tournament is over and the decklists have been released, it should give us a clearer picture on how much impact EXs and Big Basics alone actually have on the viability of Stage 2s. I’ll post or link the decklists here once they are out.


You got it!

[quote=“thegrovylekid, post:130, topic:2318”]
Gen 1 era: Even [3 decks. Haymaker [Basics], Do The Wave [Stage 1] Blastoise [Stage 2][/quote]

There is an issue here: they weren’t three separate but equal decks. “Haymaker” is a specific deck with many variants. By definition, it is a mono-Basic build. Do the Wave decks sometimes were backed by Haymaker Pokémon (but is not classified as “Haymaker” since we just violated the definition of Haymaker), sometimes by something else like Muk (Fossil). For that matter, sometimes you have what would have been a Haymaker deck except it chose to include said Muk.

Rain Dance decks originally were a Stage 2 backing two Stage 1 attackers (Dewgong and/or Gyarados from Base Set) but once we got Fossil, you started seeing Articuno functioning as the main attacker (I usually also would run something else, but I don’t know if my build was “good” or not).

Regrettably being so old, we don’t have good data on how heavily the major variants ought to have been played. My first hand experience leads me to heavily favor Haymaker based on it only really having difficulty with Rain Dance decks. Unfortunately a lot of said experience is very old and I will not be surprised if I have contradicted myself within this post, let alone between posts (sorry guys, but turns out human memory is pretty malleable).

Even looking at what we do have and assuming those three decks were equally played… by the time of Fossil, Haymaker was dominant by a good margin… and composed of at least three iconic examples of “Big, Basic Pokémon”: Electabuzz (Base Set), Hitmonchan (Base Set) and Scyther (Jungle). I prefer including “Movie Promo” Mewtwo (…it is late and I really don’t want to have to dig for the exact number). The Potpourri variant squeezes in Magmar (Fossil) as well… sometimes also Ditto (Fossil). So one deck could represent six different examples of Basic Pokémon… while a Rain Dance deck shows a single Stage 2 standing tall, backing up Basic Pokémon. A Wigglytuff / Muk variant could give us two Stage 2 Pokémon.

Kind of late, so I’m just gonna leave it there.


Beware of falling into the trap of thinking that other Pokemon are the only reason a certain Pokemon (or in this case group of Pokemon) is viable or unviable. It is so easy to say that the huge Pokemon sitting around are ruining the format and kicking out Stage 2s, but the cards that aren’t Pokemon play as huge an impact.

Double Colorless Energy comes to mind. Imo, getting rid of all EX Pokemon won’t improve things nearly as much as getting rid of this single card. This card is simply everywhere. 6 decks from US Nats Masters top 8 ran this. 4 decks from seniors and 6 decks from Juniors. A huge chunk of decks both competitive and semi-competitive rely heavily on DCE to even work. It gave decks such as Night March, Raichu, Flareon, Toad, etc. the acceleration they needed to hit as fast as they do, which chases the slower Stage 2 attackers out.

Stage 2 support atm is also very terrible. The last semblance of Stage 2 support rotated last year in the form of Pokemon Communicator, Level Ball and Tropical Beach, and have seen no replacements. Going further back to the eras where Stage 2s flourished, we had Broken Time Space and Rare Candy which made Stage 2s a lot easier to play than they are now. The only break Stage 2 decks got in this format was the removal of first turn attacks meaning that you can actually do something before your starting Pokemon got donked by a Mewtwo EX.

With this in mind, we have to do a lot more than nerfing EXs. The Stage 2s themselves have to step up and be viable else the format will end up being dominated by Stage 1s and non-EX big basics.

HP is actually the least relevant stat that made EXs better than Stage 2s. Sure, more HP is flashy, but EXs have a worse HP per Prize (represented from now on by HP/p) ratio at 90 HP/p than most non-EX Big Basics at 120-130 HP/p and a comparable HP/p ratio than stage 1 at 90 HP/p. Mega Pokemon, which sit at 200-240 HP and have 120 HP/p have a comparable (and due to the need of any Mega worth a damn to have a Spirit Link, arguably slightly worse) HP/p ratio compared to Stage 2s (130-140 HP/p), and is still worse than non-EX Big Basics.

The one thing they have going for them is a massive Power per Energy ratio. For comparison’s sake, Blaziken FFI and M Latios have a similar effect in their main attacks with Blaziken being comparable to M Latios on its own (40 per energy for [P][W][C] and 37.5 per energy for [R][R][C][C] is close enough given the type of energy required). However, assuming you kill an M Latios in 2 hits and kill a Blaziken in one, the cost is actually 48 per energy for [P][P][W][W][C] vs 37.5 for [R][R][R][R][C][C][C][C] making it harder to run Blaziken. When you factor in the overall strength of the cards that come before them, Blaziken just falls flat on its face as Torchic and Combusken/Rare Candy VS Latios EX and Spirit Link is barely a comparison. So, even if normal Pokemon do not lag very far from EXs in the HP department, they don’t pay off in terms of power per card, and to blame for this is that we have too many placeholders.

@Otaku has said this time and time again. To make Stage 2 viable, the Basics and Stage 1s must not be placeholders and rely 100% on their Stage 2s to be playable, and the fact that we opt to go for Rare Candy over the Stage 1s most of the time (all the time if not for the bloody Toad) is a good indicator that something is wrong. We actually have several decent Stage 2 lines in Garchomp DRX, Crobat PHF and Eelektross PRC and all of them had one thing in common. They all sport a decent Stage 1, and in the case of Crobat, a decent Basic to boot. To take the previous example, what if, in the near future, TPC releases a Combusken with the ability to attach 2 [R] from the discard pile to itself when played from your hand? That would make Blaziken FFI a much easier Pokemon to work with since you can, by your 3rd turn, have multiple Blaziken on standby to attack for a DCE or Blacksmith drop, rather than having to focus on charging each one up separately.

This, on top of slowing down the format slightly, should make Stage 2s viable.


Regarding the Evolution Tournament, it completed about a week ago. The full results regarding deck composition etc. have yet to be released, but so far:

Champion - Excadrill / Garbodor
Runner-up - Empoleon / Swampert
3rd Place - Trevenant
4th Place - Trevenant / Slurpuff / Forretress

Top 8

  • Myself with Jolteon / Crobat
  • Trevenant / Slurpuff
  • Medicham / Machamp
  • Greninja / Kingdra PLF / Bats

Top 16

  • Zoroark / Team Magma’s Poochyena
  • Flareon / Night March
  • Weavile
  • Medicham / Bats
  • Swampert / Huntail / Leafeon
  • Cinccino / Noivern / Raichu
  • Medicham / Machamp
  • Medicham / Machamp

Also to note, the tournament had 68 players (not including those that dropped out) and out of those, the two most popular decks seem to be Trevenant and Medicham, while Exeggcute is the most splashed Pokemon, with Swampert coming in second.


I just noticed a strange thing in the Trading Card Game…

If it wasn’t obvious enough, every new era brings in a Power Creep. Not just in terms of damage output, but in terms of HP as well. Here, compare BS Mewtwo to LTR Mewtwo…

Okay, his HP has increased by 60. Nothing surprising. That’s what the power creep is for. But on the other hand…

…some Pokemon haven’t gotten HP buffs at ALL! This Ninjask is still just a 70HP shell-of-a-man, after 10 whole years! Anyone got a good reason why? This just seems kind of fishy.



They generally base the HP on the cards by how good the hp is in the video game, I think. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

EDIT: Or maybe not…


At least we had a deck based around BS Mewtwo, while LTR Mewtwo saw no play at all. :wink: Anyways, considering their similarity, this Ninjask should be compared with the Loose Shell one. As you can see, the HP went down.

That’s my biggest issue with HP inflation. They didn’t apply it evenly, though you can say that BLW policy of giving more love to Legendaries is a major part of why their HP is so high. I guess they figured that it is necessary to allow Legendaries to see play. The EX mechanic seemed to go along these lines as well early on before LTR. The problem is that they failed to even up the stages when they did so, and this, combined with Trainer Cards getting worse, and worse, is the primary reason as to why Stage 2s aren’t viable.

As @thegrovylekid said, the power levels for a lot Pokemon, particularly Evolving Basics and Stage 2s, has been kept either level, or decreased. Although it is usually used as an example, Hoppip is one of the worse examples, though, because Hoppip has always had 30 HP starting from the set directly after the first 50 HP one. The one with 50 HP can be considered an anomaly, just the same way Sneasel Neo Genesis (who is still the best Sneasel since) was in terms of power.

A better one would be Exeggcute, where Exeggcute ROS is, in terms of HP and Utility, the worst Exeggcute to date. All the other Eggs we’ve had in the past, even those that had 40 HP has had at least the option to sleep stall, or possess some utility like Energy Acceleration or Call for Family. Same can be said of Gible, where the prior version had either more bulk, or more utility instead of Attack 1 does 10 damage Attack 2 does 20 damage. For some it is the opposite. Machop is much stronger today than it was all those years ago, but only because Machop as a Pokemon has been weak in general.

That said, I find that the height of power in this game to not be NXD with the EXs, on, but DP-On, because outside big numbers, every other thing whether it is Pokemon Based Draw, Pre-Evolved forms, Stage 2s, etc. is much, much weaker today than it was back then. Not surprising for the era which was the biggest offender for complexity creep and power creep.


I don’t think the comparison between a Gen I Legendary and a Gen III Stage 1 is especially useful. The game changed so much between the two Pokemon being released.

I mean, who thinks that Mewtwo shouldn’t have a much higher HP than Ninjask? Seems to me that they always has Ninjask about right.