The Pokemon Trading Card Game’s Paldea Evolved set, out in June 2023, is an interesting one to analyze. After all, the first set of a new era tends to be preoccupied with the obligations of representing starters and reprinting staples needed for basic deck construction. The second set, though? There’s a bit more freedom. A bit more intent. And a slightly clearer peek into the design team’s priorities.
The cover stars of the set are Scarlet and Violet’s dark post-game legendaries: Wo-Chien, Chi-Yu, Chien-Pao and Ting-Lu. Each can be found by collecting a bunch of stakes across the land. Was that a pain? For sure. Was it easier than the roaming legendaries of the past? Also yes.
We’re honestly surprised to see them featured so soon, as the game’s main campaign species feel like they have enough left to sustain a few more sets. But here we are! Legendaries inevitably have strong abilities, and there are definitely some usable moves in the mix with these four. And if you’re wondering what the Paldea Evolved set is all about, the mechanics on each are fairly representative.
In addition to charging up benched pals, Chi-Yu ex serves as a counter to… well, not a mechanic, exactly? But high-level competitive decks often see the deck as a resource to be expended, chewing through cards as fast as possible to get even an ounce of board advantage. The threat, even potential, of something like Chi-Yu’s Jealously Singe discard ability? It can move the needle a bit. The TCG has been, and continues to be, wary of ways to deck your opponent. So is this ability small? Yeah. But in the context, it’s significant.
Chien-Pao ex is a great example of The Pokemon Company’s efforts to make basic energy more desirable in the wake of the Lugia V meta apocalypse. Along with fellow Paldea Evolved addition Baxcalibur, Chien-Pao can make for a highly efficient mono-Water deck that recalls the days of Base Set Blastoise. The two get all your energy into your hand, then onto your Pokemon. Left in your deck? A consistent feed of handy Trainers.
Paldea Evolved also really wants you to consider healing. Ting-Lu ex benefits from spreading around small amounts of damage to disable abilities. This can be paired with those who hit damaged foes a lot harder. Healing hasn’t exactly been cool lately, as most viable attacks are doing 200 or more damage that recovery speeds can only dent. But these new cards? Maybe they’ll start to move the needle. If only a bit. Then again, it also just printed a new Abomasnow, with a Freezing Disaster ability that prevents healing entirely! So we’ll see.
And as for Wo-Chien? The Pokemon Trading Card Game has long featured cards designed to get better when you’re losing, offering benefits to having more Prize Cards remaining. With Paldea Evolved, though, the quantity of these cards is enough to start seriously considering “lose to win” as a strategy. New options like Wo-Chien ex, Iono and Reversal Energy — along with intentional KO options like Forretress ex, truly might work. Is it worth the risk? We’ll have to see how the metagame shakes out.
Two of these legendaries also target the bench with their attacks. This seems to be an effort to further justify Tera Pokemon, a card type introduced in the previous set making them immune to bench damage. It seemed like kind of a throwaway effect for such a centerpiece game mechanic, but it’s possible it’ll feel a lot more consequential when competitive decks are increasingly full of ranged attacks.
All four are ex Pokemon, making them counterable with new strategies that help cards without Rule Boxes. Does it feel a bit gacha-game-like to simultaneously create a problem and offer players fixes? Yeah, and perhaps that makes sense for a CCG too. But all four are still Basics, meaning they can benefit from Items like the new Bravery Charm that boost HP by 50 and change the math a bit for opponents.
It should be mentioned that, as much as the set itself is about these four legendaries, your experience with it could be very much shaped by one more presence in the expansion. Polarizing gym leader Iono is here, and in no fewer than three incarnations. Eager fans looking to acquire her in normal, full art and Illustrator Rare forms caused huge supply issues for the set in Japan. Will there be the same problem in the West, or will The Pokemon Company International overcompensate to an audience that’s not as obsessed with Iono as the Japanese one? Only time will tell, we suppose.
The Pokemon Trading Card Game Paldea Evolved expansion will release June 9, 2023. For more Pokemon TCG coverage, check out our archive.