Pokémon Trading Card Formats: Detailed Explanation

February 15, 2023 · Your Playmat
Pokémon formats guide

Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG) is a collectible card game that was first introduced in Japan in 1996. The game has since grown in popularity, and it’s been released in many countries worldwide. The game is a duel battle between players. But over time, the Pokémon Standard format of the game can become boring for players.

The Pokémon TCG has several different formats that players can take part in. And each has its rules and guidelines. In our article, we will tell you about all types of Pokémon card game formats. Also, we will tell you about new other formats that exist in a game. We'll also give you some practical tips for choosing your mode for playing.

Stay with us and read our article until the end. This way, your Pokémon game always remains varied and interesting.

Basics of Pokémon Trading Card Formats

Here are the basics of some of the most popular formats:

  • Standard Format. The Pokémon Standard format is the most widely played in the Pokémon TCG. It consists of the most recent sets of cards and restricts the use of older cards. Players use this format in most official tournaments and events;
  • Expanded Format. The Expanded format is like the Pokémon Standard format. But it allows the use of older cards that have been officially released in the Pokémon TCG. This format has a larger card pool and allows for more creative deck-building.
  • Legacy Format. The Legacy format allows the use of any card that has been officially released in the Pokémon TCG. This one has the largest card pool and allows players to use older, powerful cards. But, due to the vast number of cards available, Legacy format events are rare. And they are typically not sanctioned by official tournaments.

These are the basic formats of the Pokémon TCG. Each format has own unique rules and guidelines. And players can choose the format that best suits their playstyle. Regardless of the format, the game's goal is to use your deck of cards to defeat your opponent's Pokémon.

Casual Pokémon Card Formats

Players can take part in many casual formats in the Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG).

Some popular casual formats include:

  • Theme Deck Play. Players use pre-constructed theme decks to play against each other. Theme decks are decks that have a specific theme. It can be a particular type of Pokémon and can provide a good starting point for newer players;
  • Free-for-All. In a Free-for-All, players bring their deck and play against all other players. The player with the most wins at the end of the game is the winner;
  • One-on-One. One-on-One is a single-player versus-player format. Each player brings their deck to play against one other player;
  • Casual Multiplayer. Casual multiplayer is a format where many players play together. But they use their decks. Players can use this mode with a variety of rules. It can be using a specific format (e.g., Pokémon Standard format) or allowing players to use any cards they wish;
  • Rules-Variant Play. Rules-Variant play allows players to customize the game rules to their liking. For example, players can choose to allow the use of certain banned cards or to play with special rules.

These casual Pokémon card formats allow players to play the game in a way tailored to their individual preferences and skill levels. Whether playing with friends or at a local game store, casual formats are a fun and relaxed way to enjoy the Pokémon TCG.

Standard Pokémon Trading Card Format

The Standard format is one of the most widely played formats in the Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG). It consists of the most recent sets of cards and restricts the use of older cards. And it makes it a good mode for newer players to start with. The Standard format is also the configuration for most official tournaments and events:

  1. Card Pool. The Standard Pokémon TCG format includes the current and previous four Expansions. There are also special sets, such as promotional cards and special collections. The card pool is updated twice a year. It happens in September and February. This time, the creators include the newest sets and remove older ones;
  2. Ban List. The Standard format has a ban list. It lists specific cards that are not allowed in Standard format play. The ban list is updated periodically. The official Pokémon TCG tournament organizers do this. It balances the game and prevents the use of overpowered or disruptive cards;
  3. Official Tournaments. Players use the Standard Pokémon TCG format in most official Pokémon TCG tournaments. It includes the World Championships and the Regional Championships. The official tournament organizers typically organize these tournaments. And they are held throughout the year in different regions.

In official Standard format tournaments, players must build their deck. They can use only cards from the Standard format card pool and must follow the ban list. The game's goal is to use your cards to defeat your opponent's Pokémon. Also, you can reduce their remaining Prize cards to zero. The tournament organizers determine the rules and guidelines for each tournament. And they can change the rules from year to year.

The Standard format is a great starting point for newer players. And it provides a balance between new and older cards. Using the ban list and regular updates to the card pool ensures that the game remains balanced and fair.

Expanded Pokémon Trading Card Format

The Expanded mode allows players to use a larger card pool than the Standard format. This format includes all cards from sets that are in the Pokémon TCG. And the exceptions are certain banned cards:

  1. Card Pool. The Expanded Pokémon TCG format card pool includes all cards from the current and previous sets. Also, there are special sets, such as promotional cards and special collections. Unlike the Standard format, the Expanded format card pool does not change.
  2. Ban List. The Expanded format has a ban list, a list of specific cards not allowed in Expanded format play. You can watch it on the official site of Pokémon TCG.
  3. Official And Casual Play. The Expanded format is popular in both official and casual Pokémon TCG play. In official tournaments, players must build their deck. But they can use only cards from the Expanded format card pool. And they must follow the ban list. The tournament organizers determine the rules and guidelines for each tournament. But they can change them.

In casual play, this Pokémon card format provides players with a diverse and creative environment. With the larger card pool, players can access a wider range of options. And they can build decks that incorporate older, powerful cards.

The Expanded format is a popular choice among experienced players. They enjoy using a larger card pool and building more creative decks. But it may be more challenging for newer players. But still, it provides an exciting environment to explore and experiment with deck strategies.

Limited Pokémon Trading Card Format

Players use a limited number of cards to build their decks in a Limited format. There are two main variations of the Limited Pokémon TCG format. They are Booster Draft and Sealed Deck:

  1. Booster Draft. In Booster Draft, players get a booster pack of cards. And they take turns selecting one card at a time. They do it until they draft all the cards. After drafting a certain number of booster packs, players use the cards to build their deck. Booster Draft is typically played with 3 to 8 players. And it is a popular PokémonTCG format for casual play and smaller tournaments;
  2. Sealed Deck. In Sealed Deck, players get a pre-determined number of booster packs. And they use the cards from those packs to build their deck. Unlike Booster Draft, players do not get to choose the specific cards they draft. But they must work with the cards they have. A sealed deck is typically played with 2 to 6 players and is a popular format for larger tournaments;
  3. Official And Casual Play. The Limited format is great for both official and casual Pokémon TCG play. In official tournaments, players may participate in Booster Draft or Sealed Deck events. The tournament organizers determine the rules and guidelines for each tournament.

In casual play, the Limited Pokémon format provides players with a fun and unique challenge. With a limited number of cards, players use their creativity and strategic thinking. The Limited format is also great for discovering new cards and strategies. The players may encounter cards they have never seen before.

The Limited format is a popular and exciting way to play the Pokémon TCG. With the limited card pool, players must be creative and strategic in their deck building. It makes for a unique and challenging experience.

Choosing The Right Format For You

Choosing the right format for you in the Pokémon can greatly impact the game's enjoyment. Here are some factors to consider when selecting the right format for you:


  1. Skill Level. Different Pokémon formats have different levels of complexity. So it's important to choose a format appropriate for your skill level. For example, the Standard format is a good starting point for newer players. And the Expanded and Limited formats can be more challenging. And they may need more advanced deck-building and strategy skills;

  2. Play Style. Consider your play style when choosing a format. If you enjoy using various cards, then the Expanded format may be a good fit for you;

  3. Collection Size. The size of your card collection may also influence your choice of format. The Standard format has a smaller card pool. But the Expanded format allows for a larger variety of cards. The Standard format may be a good fit if you have a smaller collection. And players with larger collections may enjoy the Expanded format;

  4. Time. The time you have available to play may also be a factor in choosing a format. The Limited format can be a time-intensive one. It often involves booster draft or sealed deck play. The Standard and Expanded modes are faster to play. It's because players are using pre-constructed decks;
  5. Cost. Finally, consider the cost of each format. While the Standard format may need less investment, the Expanded and Limited formats may need a larger investment in buying booster packs or pre-constructed decks.

Ultimately, the right Pokémon formats for you will depend on your individual:

  1. Preferences;
  2. Skills;
  3. Resources.

Try playing each format to see which is the most enjoyable. And don't be afraid to experiment and try new formats as your skills and interests evolve.

Bottom Line

As a result, today, there are many game formats in Pokémon. Each of them has its characteristics. Of course, you may not like the official formats of the game. In this case, you can choose custom formats like cube and others.


How Do I Know If A Card Is Legal In A Certain Pokémon Format?

The format legality of a card is determined by its set symbol, which you can find in the bottom right corner of the card. To be legal in a certain format, a card must be from a set that is in that format. You can find a list of legal sets for each format on the official Pokémon Trading Card Game website.

Can I Use Cards From Different Languages In A Pokémon Trading Card Game?

Yes, you can use cards from different languages in the same game. But these cards should be legal for the game.

Is It Free To Take Part In Official Pokémon Tournaments?

It depends on the specific tournament you are referring to. Some official Pokémon tournaments may have an entry fee, while others may be free to participate in. The cost of entry and the specific rules and regulations for each tournament can vary, so it is best to check with the tournament organizers or the official Pokémon website for details.