We’ve taken a look at the set as a whole, but let’s get straight to the point: what are the best cards in the new Pokemon Trading Card Game Scarlet & Violet set? As always, it depends on your criteria. Here are our nominees!
The most meta-relevant Scarlet & Violet Cards
If we have to pick one card we think will make competitive deck lists, it’s Revavroom. Card draw is a big part of utilizing spare bench spots, and Rumbling Engine gets you a full hand of six cards each turn just for discarding an energy. And that energy card? Yeah, it’s a cost, but so many decks actually need some in the discard pile to pull them back with abilities.
The other big use of bench Pokemon is energy acceleration. Quaquaval’s Energy Carnival ability just straight doubles the number you can play, without restriction on target. Gardevoir ex is a lot more specific — it’s for Psychic decks — but it can pull unlimited energy from the discard pile at the cost of a bit of damage each time. Most of the time, it’s probably worth it! And it might work with that Revavroom or lots of healing, if you want to push things further.
Boss’s Orders is a mainstay in the format, as a well-timed swap often wins you the game. Given that, a version that’s a bit weaker but works every turn? That could be useful! Mabosstiff lets the opponent pick who comes in, but they don’t always have a great bench alternative.
We’ve seen moves like Torkoal’s Concentrated Fire work well in the past, as you get a coin flip for each energy card and can just load it up with everything you’ve got. Enough of ‘em and it can take out anything.
And hey, maybe the cover-art legendaries could see some use? Miraidon ex and Koraidon ex both have utility effects to help decks of their type, with Miraidon searching for Electric Pokemon and Koraidon pulling Fighting Energy from the discard pile to your creatures.
The coolest Scarlet & Violet Cards
We’re not huge Toedscool fans, but its new full-art variant uses a bold, stylized art that really works well. It feels like this set is a turning point for the game’s “Illustrator Rare” cards, with a lot more of them keeping composition in mind. They look nicer and more varied, but also at least some of them remain legible! Similarly, the Miriam trainer card is really striking. We want more art like it, please! It helps that it’s useful enough to actually use, too.
One art that sticks out by blending in: the new Sandile. The composition of it hiding in the desert is very clever and effective. (And hey, once again, we can read the card. We can’t stress enough how important that can be.)
Regardless of how you feel about Tera ex or Tera Pokemon as a concept, the treatment of the full-art versions is nice. We suppose this isn’t entirely surprising, as their whole thing is being sparkly? But yeah, it works here.
The most interesting Scarlet & Violet Cards
Though it’s probably too much effort to get into play for just a bench support effect, Kingambit is an intriguing option. Its Leadership ability boosts your Basic attackers’ damage output across the board. Looking for something easier to use? The set’s new Hawlucha could eventually be part of a nice combo. Right now, we’re not sure there’s as big a use for placing a damage counter on two benched creatures. But if there’s an efficient way to bounce it back to your hand, or a powerful attack that needs the opponent to be damaged? It could happen.
We’re also keeping an eye on Bombirdier. It can use an early turn attack to search for three Pokemon Tool cards, setting up a wild combo fast. But as of right now? The power level on Tools isn’t quite there. We bet we’ll see some nice ones soon, now that they’re a separate type and The Pokemon Company wants to make them cool and marketable.
It’s possible that you could also make a fun deck around Indeedee. Its Expert Nurturer ability lets you search for and immediately play an evolution onto a creature, accelerating card draw and taking a turn out of the ramp up to a powerful attacker. The Pokemon TCG is still, at its heart, a game about basics since they’re easier and many are very strong. But we’d love to see that change.
The cutest Scarlet & Violet Cards
It’s no surprise to see the new starters, as well as tailor-made cute buddies like Dedenne and Pawmi, are having a real ball in Paldea. They’re not fancy, but relaxed friend time is good too.
The easy answer, though, is Fidough. Which one of the three? That’s up to you. The two normal prints are of pups more than deserving of a treat, and the full-art version of it admiring a bake shop window gives you instructions on what kind of treat to pick. (On the flip side, the Mabosstiff line? The one that the video game spends so much time getting you to love? The cards go big-teeth ferocious. Swing and a miss, if you ask us. Though the full-art variant gets it a bit better.)
The best and most endearing card concept we’ve seen pop up in Pokemon TCG illustrations is the evolution sequence. A great new example? The Ralts-Kirlia-Gardevoir ex Illustrator Rare chain. Growing up alongside your pal hits our nostalgia hard, and it’s also nice to see Pokemon helping out in ways that aren’t just battling.
The Pokemon Trading Card Game Scarlet & Violet expansion launches on March 31, 2023. For more, check out the rest of our Pokemon TCG coverage.