Pokemon TCG: Everything We Know About Scarlet & Violet Base Set

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  • Pokemon EX Returns
  • Introducing Terastalization
  • Print Style
  • Pokemon Tools
  • Still More To Come

New expansions come and go, but entirely new eras only happen in the Pokemon TCG when the flagship video games shift between generations. Hence, it's always a spectacle, inviting excitement and trepidation — perhaps in equal measure — as fans brace for broad, sweeping changes that may come to define the next several years of play.

The Scarlet & Violet era of the Pokemon TCG is upon us. The ninth-generation tabletop adaptation will make its grand debut in Japan on January 20th, 2023; put another way, it's entirely possible it will have already happened by the time you've read this. Internationally, the rollout begins on March 31st. Trainers, arm yourselves with everything we know before you crack open those first precious packs.

Pokemon EX Returns

In Japan, the inaugural set is titled 'Scarlet ex and Violet ex'. English-speaking countries will receive the more straightforward 'Scarlet & Violet' base set without the titular flourishes, but make no mistake, Pokemon ex are that important in the new era. Pokemon-ex are a type of card that thrived several generations ago before disappearing from contemporary content to make way for new kinds of cards, like (eventually) Sword & Shield's famous Pokemon V.

The 'ex' stands for 'extra', and back when Pokemon-ex arrived at the scene during the days of EX Ruby & Sapphire, this was a pretty big deal. Up until then, most special-variant Pokemon were tied to some outside force, so to speak — Team Rocket's Meowth, for example, or Dark Charizard. Charizard ex and its brethren made a statement: "we're beefed-up versions of your old favorites, complete with nifty abilities that will turn the game on its head."

Such sentiments are hardly new these days, of course. Pokemon VMAX and VSTAR inarguably transformed the Pokemon TCG's Sword & Shield days into a race to the top, where behemoths worth two or even three (!) prize cards took to the field like some kaiju, or (more accurately), Gigantamax Pokemon from the video games themselves.

There's another reason for the 'extra' in Pokemon-ex, and it's the likelihood that Pokemon-ex have attacks that do more than simply damage the opponent. The upcoming Iron Tusk ex has an attack that destroys an active Stadium card. Given the prevalence of Stadiums in recent times, that's hardly insignificant. But while that's not always the case, there's no disputing that Pokemon-ex have higher HP and overall power than their more ordinary versions, and as such, knocking out a Pokemon-ex earns two prize cards.

Introducing Terastalization

By now, most Pokemon Trading Card game players who at least dabble occasionally in the video games will likely be familiar with the Terastal mechanic. In the TCG, Terastal is akin to the old Ancient Traits concept: they function akin to Abilities, or at least similarly, but do not count as such. Therefore, all those pesky ways to block Abilities do not apply, turning them into a far more reliable fixture for your team.

Right now, we know of Arcanine ex's Terastal mechanic, which prevents all damage from being inflicted while Arcanine ex is on the bench. As for whether this is an all-encompassing notion for Fire-types, and each type has its own version — or this is unique to Arcanine ex, and there will be a wide array of Terastal mechanics — at present we cannot say. We'll update you as soon as we can.

We do know of a Gyarados ex card that will also feature as Terastalized, but the contents of the card itself have yet to be revealed. A bit odd!

Print Style

With each fresh era of the Pokemon TCG, the creators shift stuff around in ways that will range per player mentality from huge to downright irrelevant. Here's what we mean. Take the cards themselves, for example. There's an unmistakable style to era-spanning expansions that might not be readily apparent at first blush, but will quickly help to identify them once you've familiarized yourself with the layouts.

In Scarlet & Violet's case, Pokemon tend to come with a lighter tint to the background directly beneath the portrait; additionally, the stats box between the portrait and background has been raised to form something of a 3D effect. Yet there is one big change that towers over the rest, and that's the silver borders we'll be seeing from the Scarlet & Violet base set forward.

While this may not sound like a major deal, longtime fans are liable to recognize that the silver borders have always been a distinctly Japanese trend. The Japanese player base has been accustomed to the aesthetic for ages, but these borders have always been shifted to yellow when printed for international audiences. Opinions will vary, but for our money, we prefer this more unified approach.

Pokemon Tools

Tools, an increasingly rad sub-category of Item cards that can really turn the tide when 'equipped' to a Pokemon, are being given their own full-fledged category. This means that strategies involving Item cards in general will no longer effect Tool cards in any way. A not-inconsiderable number of strategies will be impacted by this, so you can look forward to plenty of chatter over it in the months to come.

Still More To Come

It's an exciting time for the Pokemon TCG. As Sword & Shield did in 2019, and so many generations (seven, to be exact) did before that, Scarlet & Violet will revamp the game, refueling it with all sorts of shifts that are sure to make some of us stoked and some of us flustered. Or, likeliest of all, some combination therein.

There's still a lot we don't know, but that will change as more sets emerge. We'll begin to see the earliest Scarlet & Violet strategies emerging from Japan, and then, on March 31st, those of us outside the Land of the Rising Sun will get our hands on the cards and test them out either in-person or on Pokemon TCG Live. Stick with us as we chart this bold course across scenic Paldea.

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