Learning Pokemon TCG is a series of blogs and videos that teaches you everything you need to know to start playing! This series is updated regularly to ensure all information is accurate.
Once you know how to play the Pokemon TCG, the next step is to buy what you need to do it! One of the best, and sometimes most overwhelming, elements of Pokemon is the massive amount of cards available.
If you’re looking for a fast and easy way to try the Pokemon TCG, we recommend buying a couple of theme decks. These are pre-constructed, ready-to-play decks that allow anyone to start playing right away.
While theme decks are incredibly convenient, they are only the beginning of what is available to play the game. In this chapter, we cover everything you need to know to decide how you want to collect the Pokemon TCG!
Booster Packs and Booster Boxes
The Pokemon TCG is a trading card game, meaning players collect cards to build unique decks and play against each other. The primary way players collect these cards is through booster packs.
A booster pack contains 10 random cards, similar to a pack of baseball cards. Each card has a rarity, ranging from common (the most frequently included cards) to super rare (the least frequently included cards). The standard distribution of cards in a booster pack is 6 common cards, 3 uncommon card, and 1 rare (or better) card.
Booster packs (pictured above) are released in sets. New sets are released roughly four times a year, each with a unique name like “Sun and Moon Team Up”. Each set contains a fixed number of new cards, usually around 200.
When you buy a booster pack, it will indicate the set that it is from. As you can see in the picture above, the booster packs are from the set Sun and Moon Team Up. If you bought 10 packs of Team Up, you would end up with 10 rare cards, 30 uncommon cards, and 60 common cards. While you can buy booster packs individually, they are also commonly sold in a booster box of 36 packs.
One of the best reasons to buy booster boxes is to get a better distribution of cards. Imagine there are 220 cards in a set. In that set, there is somewhere around 70 rare cards, 70 uncommon cards, and 80 common cards. When you buy a single pack, you will get a random rare card, 3 random uncommon cards, and 6 random common cards.
If you occasionally buy a handful of booster packs at your local game store or Wal-Mart, it’s possible that you open the extremely rare and hard to find cards every time. It’s also possible that you open the same cards over and over again.
When you purchase a booster box, you will get 36 rare cards, 108 uncommon cards, and 216 common cards. Opening packs from the same box makes it more likely to get a variety of cards. Out of your 36 rares, it is normal to get at least 20 different rare cards in an individual box. You are also likely to end up with 1-2 of every uncommon card and 2-3 of most common cards in the set! This is just the reality of how factory production works for these kinds of products.
Another great reason to purchase packs in a booster box is to get a better price. The MSRP (manufacturers suggested retail price) of a booster pack is $4. Buying a box of 36 packs at MSRP would cost $144. While most local retailers (like Wal-Mart and Target) sell their booster packs for $4 each, you can find booster boxes for less than $99. We sell them for $89 through our subscription, which equates to less than $2.50 a pack!
As you start playing the Pokemon TCG, you will hear the term play set. This refers to having 4 copies of a card, since you can ‘play’ 4 copies of any card in your deck. To get 4 copies of every card in a set with 60 rares, you would need to purchase at least 240 booster packs. With four sets releasing each year, this quickly becomes very daunting.
Very few players try to collect a play set of every card that is released. There are many ways to approach collecting the Pokemon TCG, so let’s discuss a few of our recommended ways to build your collection!
Collecting The Pokemon TCG
Even though there is a seemingly endless number of cards you can collect, you can learn the game and have hours of fun by picking up a few theme decks. If you are new to the Pokemon TCG and want to give it a try, we recommend grabbing a few of the newest theme decks, like these below.
Given the number of previously released cards, we also do not recommend trying to catch up by buying booster boxes from older sets. If there are older cards that catch your eye (like the original Charizard), you can buy individual cards (also called singles) from websites like TCGPlayer.com.
If you play the game and love it, the best way to expand your collection is by keeping up with future sets. Some players only buy a handful of packs when a new set releases and buy the rest of the cards they want as singles. Most, however, buy anywhere between one and three boosters boxes every time a new set is released. How many boxes you buy really depends on your budget and the experience you want to have.
Buying one booster box is enough to give you a variety of cards from a set. This will let you get a feel for the new cards and inform your decision to purchase more packs or buy specific singles. This is a great way to go, particularly if you only plan to play across the kitchen table or are really just looking to enjoy the game with friends and family.
Buying two or three booster boxes will give you a solid variety of the rare cards and likely a play set (four of each) of most of the uncommon and common cards in the set. If you’re looking to play in local leagues or tournaments and will be able to trade with other players, this will give you all of the commons and uncommons you need along with extra rares for trading to get the cards you really want.
Unless you’re collecting for multiple people, we don’t recommend going beyond four or five booster boxes. There are some very valuable, chase cards in most sets, but once you get to your fourth or fifth box most of the cards you open will be cards you already have four or more copies of. It will typically be much more effective to trade or buy the final cards that you need.
If you want to keep up with new sets in the easiest way possible, check out our Pokemon TCG Booster Box Subscriptions. Activating a subscription is free and you get free shipping when you sign up for two or more booster boxes. You don’t pay anything until a week or two before a new set releases and the boosters boxes are automatically delivered right to your front door on or a day or two after release.
From here, you have a number of options to fill in your collection with specific cards you want.
- Trade locally – the official Pokemon TCG website has a great tool for finding local leagues. Local leagues are a great way to meet players near you and trading cards is a very relevant and enjoyable part of the experience
- Pre-release and draft events – if you do find a local league near you, they will likely run pre-release and draft events. Both of these event types require you to own little to no cards to participate, and you open product and build decks right there at the event. These are great for building your collection and trading, and a ton of fun!
- Buy singles – there are a number of places to buy singles online, and local shops often have Pokemon cards on display. This is likely the most cost effective way to get the specific cards you are looking to add to your deck.
To summarize, you can try the game as easily as possible by picking up a few theme decks. From there, we recommend grabbing a booster box from the most recent set to explore the game and figure out what you will enjoy the most. If you dig the game, we recommend keeping up with new sets by buying a box or two from each new set.
You can do this through various local or online outlets, or you can can sign-up for a Pokemon TCG Booster Box Subscription and let us handle everything. It’s an incredible service that we’ve been running for over 8 years, and we’ve sent thousands of packages to subscribers worldwide.
We also highly recommend trading locally, attending pre-release and draft events, and buying singles to fill in your collection for everything you don’t get through booster boxes.