Single Prize Pokémon In The TCG

I apologize for the unholy amount of links in this post.

One sentiment I see from time to time about the Pokémon Trading Card Game is that multi-prize Pokémon (ex, Lv. X, EX, GX, V, and now lowercase ex again) ruined the game and are the sole central focus of every meta deck. The game has had its good and bad formats, one thinks of Next Destinies' Mewtwo EX being its own best counter. Broadly speaking, multi-prizers tend to be cards worth building around. There are definitely less enticing multi-prize PokémonWhy did they do this to my boy?, but they often have some kind of strong ability or attack worth dedication. But in the current format, and in the general game design, single-prizers have a serious and important place in the game. Let's use my favorite current meta deck, Chien Pao ex, as an example where a single-prizer is important.

Ability: Shivery Chill

Once during your turn, if this Pokémon is in the Active Spot, you may search your deck for up to 2 Basic Energy cards, reveal them, and put them into your hand. Then, shuffle your deck.

Hail Blade - 60

You may discard any amount of Energy from your Pokémon. This attack does 60 damage for each card you discarded in this way.

One of Chien Pao's greatest strengths in the current metagame is that the damage numbers are only capped by much Water Energy you can put on the board. Pokémon like Charizard ex and Roaring Moon ex with a Bravery Charm can get pretty big, so this is a huge asset for the deck. Of course, Chien Pao has a partner in crime it can do almost nothing without. So much so, that killing the partner early is the key to defeating Chien Pao. I am referring to Baxcalibur.

Baxcalibur wields an effect commonly referred to as Rain Dance by players, due to Base Set Blastoise being the originator of this style of ability. Baxcalibur has to evolve, however, which involves having the stage 2 card in hand and Rare Candy. This is usually not an issue with Irida still in the format, but it still keeps the deck balanced. This is my favorite deck to play, and I've gotten a few 1st places in small local tournaments, so I like to think I have some idea of how to talk about the Pokémon TCG's game design.

Baxcalibur is an Achilles' heel. Without Baxcalibur, Chien Pao does not go brr. Anyone else who is familiar with the deck can attest to simply not having it ruining a game, or only having one and having it knocked out by a wise opponent. The Pao player should be trying their damndest to get two Baxcaliburs online ASAP, at least one on their turn 2 if possible. This is one of the clearest examples of your single-prize Pokémon being one of the most important. Baxcalibur isn't your main attacker that's knocking everything out (though 130 is not useless in a pinch!), so let's look at some other examples where single-prize Pokémon ARE attackers.


The biggest and most prominent example of a single-prizer enabling a deck because it was an attacker AND only gave up one prize is Gardevoir. Sort of inverted from Chien Pao, Gardevoir in the last format was powered up by Scarlet and Violet's Gardevoir ex. Ability: Psychic Embrace As often as you like during your turn, you may attach a Basic [P] Energy card from your discard pile to 1 of your [P] Pokémon. If you attached Energy to a Pokémon in this way, put 2 damage counters on that Pokémon. You can't use this Ability on a Pokémon that would be Knocked Out. When this card was revealed, nearly everyone correctly clocked it as extremely powerful. Its most deadly partner and asset, however, was a card from a much earlier Sword and Shield set, commonly called Shining Arcana Gardevoir for its Ability.

Gardevoir in the 2023-2024 format was one of the best decks because killing Arcana Gardevoir was simply an uphill battle. Gardevoir could rather easily take out two-prizers once it was set up, and it was a threat you had to deal with in some way. It was usually easy enough to clap back, but who's winning the game in this scenario? The Gardevoir player took two prize cards, and the opposing player only took one. You could try to knock out Gardevoir ex, but that wasn't always easy because it has a very healthy 310 HP.

And even if you did take out a Gardevoir ex, another one would probably be coming soon because the bench would comprise of many Refinement Kirlia Ability: Refinement You must discard a card from your hand in order to use this Ability. Once during your turn, you may draw 2 cards. . This is an interesting example in the TCG where every stage of a Pokémon's evolution genuinely counts for something. Kirlia drew a ton of cards quickly, and even Memory Skip Ralts [P] Memory Skip 10 Choose 1 of your opponent's Active Pokémon's attacks. During your opponent's next turn, that Pokémon can't use that attack. had niche uses in certain situations and matchups to buy a valuable turn. This kind of design, where every stage in an evolution line is useful, is something I would like to see even more of in the Pokémon TCG. We did get Flare Veil Charmeleon, which is quite valuable for Charizard decks. Though, I feel it would be tremendously boring if all Stage 1's were 'draw cards' and all Stage 2's were 'uncapped damage'. We'll have to see where evolution design goes as the Scarlet & Violet block continues.

When Arcana Gardevoir rotated for the 2024-2025 format, the deck lost its ace and is still being transformed. Where it's going to settle and how strong it'll be is still being explored by players all over. Some are believers in Scream Tail and Drifloon. Scream Tail in particular is quite menacing and efficient. Because Gardevoir ex can power up any Psychic-type Pokémon, it's highly adaptable to changing formats and including new cards, but it's still struggling to find an exact replacement for Shining Arcana.

These two examples involve powerful ex Pokémon as part of the strategy, but we can take a look at a meta deck that often opts to be entirely single-prize.

Lost Zone Box

Lost Zone decks are a little design miracle to me. Cards like Comfey Ability: Flower Selecting Once during your turn, if this Pokémon is in the Active Spot, you may look at the top 2 cards of your deck and put 1 of them into your hand. Put the other card in the Lost Zone. and Colress's Experiment allow you to draw a ton of cards quickly, which enables Mirage Gate Trainer - Item You can use this card only if you have 7 or more cards in the Lost Zone. Search your deck for up to 2 basic Energy cards of different types and attach them to your Pokémon in any way you like. Then, shuffle your deck. to come in and power up nearly any Pokémon you can think of. The trade-off for this kind of unbelievable flexibility is that the Lost Zone player must make permanent decisions about what cards get sent to the Lost Zone forever. The decision-making is tough, but Lost Box has seen dozens of successful variants and will probably see some use as long as the cards are Standard legal. Lost Zone exists as an engine that can be played with in nearly any way a player imagines, provided the core cards are there.

Just like with Gardevoir, a big part of what makes Lost Box a hard deck to beat without a specific tech for it is that a typical deck with plenty of multi-prizers is more than likely to simply lose the prize trade. Sure, your big Pokémon can hit big damage numbers, but meanwhile, Cramorant is whittling you down without committing energy attachments so that Sableye can come in and clean house later. The two-prize player is going to lose any potential tempo if Lost Box pops off. In the most extreme example of this strategy, Kyogre variants needed only to take two prizes in the early or mid-game, only to pop back with Energy Recycler after drawing nearly their entire deck to set up a four prize turn at the very end!

Lost Box is also fond of teching multi-prizers when it's worth it. Raikou V (a very efficient attacker for general bigger number damage) and Drapion V took care of Lugia VSTAR and Mew VMAX respectively. Iron Leaves ex is the next likely candidate for a tech card in any deck that can take it as a way to counter Charizard ex.

Tech cards in general are extremely strong in Pokémon. Because drawing and searching is often fairly generous compared to other TCGs, two or three cards can make a huge difference in your deck. Radiant Charizard comes to mind, it only takes 'Zard and one Fire Energy to include. Minior can be thrown in easily to help any deck with a bad Snorlax Stall matchup. For decks already running Rare Candy, Night Gate Gengar will always prevent you from being truly trapped by Snorlax.

I hope I've illustrated my point by now with these examples. The general rules and ebb & flow of the prize trade in Pokémon is something that could be its own article. It only takes one turn of missing a knockout or not taking enough prizes to turn a game around. In general, if a deck can pivot to a single-prize attacker, it should! It's a powerful way to try and get ahead in the game. Right now, Lugia VSTAR is using Cinccino, and because of how strong this card is, Lugia is BACK!

It's up to you, as an awesome Pokémon Card trainer to decide what to build around, how to cover weaknesses (or just hold an L), and how to bring your strategy to life. Which brings me to my last point...

You Should Try A Pet Card

One of the greatest things about the Pokémon TCG is how many cards have potential. Pokémon is filled with offbeat strategies, surprises, and cards that fringe on being truly competitive. Not every Pokémon in every set is a winner, but these cards are fun to play and build for, and can net you some wins and friendships at your locals. "Tier 3" or "Rogue" Pokémon decks present creative challenges in deckbuilding and exciting moments. My current pet project is to make Garchomp ex as powerful as possible. A card that does that much damage and accelerates that much energy for one Fighting excites me, and he has free retreat! Dig Dig Dig Drilbur is a powerful new card that sends Fighting energy from the deck to the discard. This is immensely helpful for Garchomp ex and Koraidon ex (another card I'm a believer in), who previously had to jump through a ton of hoops to get that Energy discarded. On top of that, you had to set up your Fighting attackers as well. This has been simplified because Excadrill will evolve from the Drilbur and hit for a reasonable 180 damage, nice considering that Garchomp hits for 160, or 120 to the bench.

During a recent play session, my friend and I both lost repeatedly to Rotom VSTAR, who discards a ton of Tool cards as fast as possible and attacks for a fair two Lightning Energy. I had Rotom nearly dead with Punishing Scissors Scizor, but I couldn't close out the game due to some weak deckbuilding choices from me. Still, I made a cool play with Prime Catcher and the free Retreat Scyther to take out big Pokémon.

The list of cards, strategies, and ideas like this goes on, and on, and on...

If you are thinking about getting into the Pokémon Trading Card Game, I highly encourage a few things. 1. Be patient. Pokémon is a dramatic game where things can quickly get out of hand for either player, and like any card game, sometimes you just don't draw what you need. Be patient with the learning process for both deckbuilding and playmaking, and be kind to yourself. Take pride in individual knockouts or cool plays, and don't beat yourself up for a loss. It's a card game, and it's supposed to be fun!

2. Find a pet card, but remember that it's a challenge. Go ahead and play with your favorites, even if it's not a meta deck (yet!) or doesn't have an immediate obvious use. Building around favorites, pet cards, etc is something you'll get better at as you play. Pokémon cards are filled with possibilities, but don't worry too much if it doesn't seem to work right away, and keep an open mind. You're also more than welcome to start playing with a Standard format meta deck to get the ropes of how the game is played at various levels of competition. On the digital game Pokémon TCG Live (which I dislike, but it is what it is!), you'll get quite a few meta or slightly off-meta decks for free to get you started. I started in paper with a rogue deck myself (Zoro Box) and played with Arcanine ex when Scarlet & Violet base set came out, before transitioning into Chien-Pao ex. The card pool is a world for you to play with!

Hopefully, I've made the case for single-prize Pokémon in the TCG. Especially now, the game has a variety of viable and fun strategies to play with. The Scarlet & Violet era has been very good, and I don't expect that to change any time soon.

If you liked this article, feel free to tell me on my Guestbook? It lets me know that people are reading. At least tell me your favorite card, if you have one! Sharing on social media is also greatly appreciated. I do this independently to put a little humanity back in the web. Card images used courtesy from, which is the fastest loading and cleanest site for cards in my opinion!

I choose you!

- James