Pokemon TCG Scarlet & Violet Debut’s Biggest Addition Is Silver

pokemon tcg scarlet violet

The release of a new main-line Pokemon game brings with it a new era for the Pokemon Trading Card Game. New creatures! New mechanics! Even new card types! The new TCG Scarlet & Violet set is a chance for The Pokemon Company to regroup and give a new flavor to the decades-old game. The biggest change this time, though? It’s been a long time coming for veteran TCG fans.

You see, the card borders are a whole thing. While Japan long ago transitioned to a silver frame for its cards, the rest of the world kept the nostalgic yellow. And hey, there’s value in nostalgia! And consistency, too. But it’s been causing a number of problems. Special cards that break out of the art, or that had particular foil looks, looked inconsistent in the West in ways the Japanese cards didn’t. And fundamentally, these card layouts and illustrations were made with a silver border in mind.

With Scarlet & Violet, the international game has finally changed to match. The cards now look a little more intentional. A little more curated. A little more — dare we say it — classy. Though the yellow will always hold a place in our hearts. Previous yellow-border cards had retained all the other silver furniture, but here you see how it was meant to appear. And with all the visual elements on some of these cards, anything that can fade more easily into the background helps with quick legibility.

Included in the transition? Some price changes. This makes sense, with shipping and general inflation over the years. Still, The Pokemon Company International is taking some measures to mitigate those costs and deliver a bit more in its packs. You’ll get another reverse foil or two in place of another common. Boxes slip another booster in there. It’s a few things that don’t effect their logistics costs too much. You can judge for yourself whether it’s worth it, as always, as trading card games are inherently risky if you’re looking for “value.” But there’s a world in which the prices just went up with no concessions and at least this isn’t that.

Also changing: Pokemon Tool cards. Rather than a sub-sub-type, being a Trainer and an Item, they’re now promoted to merely a sub-type. This applies to older cards, too: they’re still Trainers, but they’re not Items anymore. This makes a lot of existing effects not apply to them anymore, for better or worse. Mostly worse? But this promotion may come with some benefits, as The Pokemon Company looks to justify their existence and market this change with enticing new options. For now, we’re mostly getting reprints of classic cards to keep them in Standard-legal sets, which is understandable. (Though it is a bit boring.)

And hey, if you were waiting for new Paldea denizens to show up, they’re here! It’s the first set, so of course we get all the starter lines. The cool endgame Pokemon will inevitably headline their own sets, but we get a hint at them with Great Tusk and Iron Treads appearances. Did you want four different versions of Tarountula? You’re in luck! In all seriousness, if you’re immersed in the newest video game, the Pokemon and Trainer cards here will help your TCG experience align accordingly.

pokemon tcg scarlet violet

That said, what hasn’t changed in this new set might be more important: the game balance. Every deck-based game has dominant combos and meta-defining cards from time to time, no matter how hard the design and development teams work to avoid them. But Pokemon? It does itself no favors here.

Right now, as seen in top-level play and the shaky online client Pokemon Trading Card Game Live, competitive Pokemon is dominated by one two-card combo: Archeops, with its rapid energy acceleration ability, and Lugia VSTAR, with a quick and easy way to get two of them in play. There are a couple of ways around it, certainly. But its existence means decks either have to be either just as lightning-fast — often fully ramped up in two turns — or with very specific counter cards. And this isn’t just true recently! With its focus on super-big special creatures that do way more damage and have flashy effects, the vast majority of each set has been dead on arrival for decades. Nothing about them is viable in even the weirdest edge case.

And The Pokemon Company continues to ignore and exacerbate these inherent balance problems. Cards like EX, GX and V have overpowered the meta and made normal Pokemon useless, with the two-prize restriction doing little to compensate for the pure damage output. The start of a new arc has the chance to introduce new types of cards, and Scarlet & Violet choose to replace them with “ex,” a type exactly the same amount and fashion of broken. Some of them require evolution now? That doesn’t move the needle very much. By our count, roughly a dozen of the new set’s over 250 cards have even a possibility of being viable in any official or unofficial format.

“Bad” cards could still see play in limited and draft. Outside of the very small and low-stakes pre-release events, though? That’s not possible. The Pokemon TCG isn’t quite as natural a fit for draft play, as it needs a balance of cards totally different from booster contents. This is absolutely something that could be fixed with a dedicated Pokemon TCG Live format, letting you draft whole evolution lines and have more access to Trainer cards. But that doesn’t appear to be in the works for the app, nor are any sort of other formats or functionality to make the game more fun.

Is this all the Scarlet & Violet set’s fault? No, not at all. It honestly looks nice — the new reverse foil designs, for example, are different for each type and fairly cool — but we get the feeling that we’ve missed another window for change. Nothing about making the game more balanced and interesting would hurt those who collect for aesthetics or favorites. More creative abilities don’t increase ink, paper or shipping costs. The only explanation? The design team simply hasn’t made it a priority.

The Pokemon TCG Scarlet & Violet expansion launches on March 31, 2023. Pre-release events at local game stores will be held earlier. For more, check out the rest of our Pokemon TCG coverage.

Graham Russell
Graham Russell, editor-at-large, has been writing about games for various sites and publications since 2007. He’s a fan of streamlined strategy games, local multiplayer and upbeat aesthetics. He joined Siliconera in February 2020, and served as its Managing Editor until July 2022. When he’s not writing about games, he’s a graphic designer, web developer, card/board game designer and editor.