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Pokemon Cards of 2023


Well, a ‘Best of Pokémon 2023’ almost didn’t happen, but considering the quality of the Scarlet and Violet sets, that would have been a crime. So here it is, my pick of the year, which mainly comes from a player’s rather than collector’s (see Stefano’s feature for this) or ‘Investor’’s point of view (although I have flipped… ahem, ‘realised the investment in’ quite a few cards for a tidy sum this year)… but bear in mind, I’m no Tord Reklev… Hmmm…

Shout Out to My Ex…

I’m gonna start with the big cards, the exs and the Tera exs. Re-introducing the need to evolve into Stage 1 and 2 exs has almost returned balance to the force… almost… and has made choosing a top ex an interesting task. Gardevoir ex, with its Psychic Embrace ability that allows you to attach psychic energy from your discard pile to your Pokémon cards (for a damage cost) has made some legit decks; Squawkabilly ex also has a great ability that gives you a turn one Professor’s Research – discard and draw six; Roaring Moon and Iron Hands both have really good attacks with really problematic drawbacks (see Paradox Rift); Mew ex has free retreat and an ability for drawing until you have 3 cards in your hand; Pidgeot ex also has free retreat and can search the deck for any card – say no more. For me, though, the ex of the year has to be Miraidon ex from Scarlet and Violet, which has a great ability (bench two basic electric Pokémon from your deck) and a pretty meaty attack (220 for two electric and one colourless that can’t be used the next turn). This and other cards have made electric great again and so, so fast.

Tera exs started slow but definitely picked up momentum towards the end, and though they looked a bit underwhelming with the ‘take no damage on the bench’ built-in ability, once the against-type Teras came in… well, they got gud. You know where this is going, but a special mention goes out to Tsareena Tera ex, because this is MY LIST and I love the fact that this can reduce any Pokémon anywhere to 30 HP, then allow you to either lock an opponent down or wipe the board in one turn. Come at me, bro. But I must confess, and I hate myself for this, the hands down best Tera ex is Dark Charizard – I so wish it wasn’t, but it is. 330 HP, charges itself up and then hits for 180 and adds 30 for each prize card taken by your opponent. It may be a Stage 2, but when a Stage 2 is this good… pairs well with Pidgeot ex and a nice Zinfandel (I don’t care if I’ve already made this joke; I like this joke).


Shout out to the Not-so-shinies

Talking about pairing, the Stage 2 of the year nominees are all about the supporting role, but there’s probably one clear winner. Togekiss has a great ability, draw up to eight in hand after check-up, but it's very vulnerable to Judge and Iono; Tinkaton worked as a nice combo with its ex (a tale for the ages) and allowed you to discard one card to draw three, but see previous issue; and I really like Aegislash’s block attacks from ex and V Pokémon whilst still doing chip-chip damage; but when it comes to abilities on Stage 2s, it has to go to Baxcalibur. Its ability to attach any number of water energy from your hand to any one of your Pokémon makes it great for any Pokémon that could do with a lot of water energy. And there are a lot of them.

Stage 1 Pokémon are a bit less… good. In the base set, Armarouge’s ability to transfer any number of fire energy from benched Pokémon to the active gave Magma Basin a bit more wriggle room, Wugtrio has the potential to mill up to nine cards from your opponent’s deck and Revavroom’s ability to discard an energy to draw up to six cards in your hand will be good – once we lose Bibarel. Obsidian Flames had Palafin, which could do 210 for two water if it moved into active that turn and Scizor, which can do 10 plus 50 for each of your opponent’s Pokémon with an ability for just one metal energy. I have, however, saved the best ‘til last – Shadowrider Xatu… I mean, Xatu. The attack is not worth mentioning, but it has an ability that allows you to attach a psychic energy from your hand to one of your benched Pokémon and then draw two cards – a ridiculous thing to do for a single prize card. Definite potential here.

Basic has given us a fair old number of ‘confounding’ Pokémon: Klefki in Scarlet and Violet stopped all abilities on Basic Pokémon; Paldea Evolved brought us Mimikyu, which blocked damage from V and ex Pokémon, and Spiritomb, which blocked abilities on all V Pokémon; then Paradox Rift finally gave us something to stop Sableye – an ability that blocked effects of attacks from Basic Pokémon on your benched Pokémon. There’s also been a lot of Davids to Goliaths: Skwovet from Scarlet and Violet allows you to shuffle your hand, put it on the bottom of your deck and draw one card – sounds awful, but pair it with Bibarel and you have what is essentially a bottomless deck; Cleffa from Obsidian Flames has no retreat cost and a free attack that allows you to draw up to seven cards in your hand – pivot and set up; and Paradox Rift just kept on giving – Morpeko, with free retreat and a decent attack that put its darkness energy onto one of your benched Pokémon – ideal for loading up Roaring Moon when you are a bit short. But my controversial choice for Basic of the year goes right back to Crown Zenith, a set not known for its original cards – Bidoof! This may be considered a bit cheeky, but this version of Bidoof is essential for all those Bibarel-powered decks, because it cannot be attacked on the bench, meaning that you won’t lose it to a naughty Radiant Greninja attack. Of course, it won’t save it from Sableye, but you’ve got Jirachi for that. Oh, hang on…

Nice Trainers

Ranking the Pokémon's is all very well, but the game is not just about forcing fluffy animals to fight to the… KO (meaning ‘knock out’, of course) – for the players, having the right combination of Trainer cards is just as important as playing the right beasties. This year has provided a fine crop.

The Supporter of the year is… do you really have to ask? Scarlet and Violet gave us Arven and Mirriam: Arven lets us search for an Item and a Tool, which is great; Miriam allows us to shuffle up to five Pokémon from our discard into the deck and draw three; which is very good. Paradox Rift gave us Professor Sada’s Vitality and Professor Turo’s Scenario: Turo allows you to put a Pokémon in play back into your hand, discarding all items and energy; Sada allows you to attach two energy from your discard pile to two different Ancient Pokémon, then draw three – this is a card that will only get better. The best by far though has to be Paldea Evolved’s Iono, a card that makes each player shuffle their hand, put it on the bottom of their deck and draw cards up to their remaining prize cards. Basically, the new N, a card so good that it has been reprinted in Paldean Fates and is still going for about four quid. A card.

Good items have also been plentiful, and though the winner is THE WINNER, the rest are honourable mentions. Electric Generator, in Scarlet and Violet, could have so easily been The One as it allows you to look at the top five cards and attach up to two electric energy found there to your benched electric Pokémon; Paldea Evolved’s Super Rod (shuffle a combination up to three Pokémon and/or energy from your discard pile inot your deck) and Superior Energy Retrieval (discard two cards from your hand to retrieve four energy cards from your discard pile) were really, really good; the return of Counter Catcher in Paradox Rift made the Snorlax lock down meta-deck possible – yeah, thanks so much for that. THE WINNER, undisputedly, is Earthen Vessel – discard a card to search your deck for two energy. Like Iono, this is a card that will be in every. Single. Deck. Until rotation.

Tools need a mention too, as tools are now a separate thing. Scarlet and Violet had two Belts, Defiance and Vitality, for boosting damage; Paldea Evolved had Bravery Charm, which gave basic Pokémon an extra 50 HP; Vengeful Punch in Obsidian Flames did 40 damage back if the Pokémon it was attached to was KO’d; again, Paradox Rift brought its A-game with Luxurious Cape, turning a one-prize Pokémon into a 2 prize Pokémon with 100 extra HP, and the two Energy Capsules (Ancient added 60 HP and proof against effects to Ancient Pokémon, Future added 20 damage to attacks and free retreat). It also gave us the best – three Technical Machines that would either give your benched Pokémon two energy, evolve two of your benched Pokémon or devolve all your opponent’s Pokémon. Then fall off. Great for set up. We don’t talk about the fourth TM.

The Stadium scene has been pretty interesting as well. Scarlet and Violet brought Beach Court, reducing Basic Pokémon retreat cost by one energy, and Mezagoza, allowing you to search your deck for any Pokémon on a coin-flip – both very good cards. Obsidian Flames had Town Store, which turned out to be a slow-burner as it allowed you to search your deck for any tool – this got really good with Paradox Rift that had NO STADIUMS. Even 151 got involved with Cycling Road, which allowed you to discard an energy to draw a card – not brilliant but… situational. The winner is, by a whisker, Artazon from Paldea Evolved. This Stadium allows either player to search their deck for a Basic Pokémon without a rule box. Such a great card.

Finally, a wee shout out to energy. Special Energy can be a bit hit and miss – either they become essential, specific or meh. Paldea Evolved was the only set to have any energy cards of note – Therapeutic Energy healed from and prevented Sleep, Confused and Paralysis, Jet Energy accelerated the Pokémon it was attached to into the Active position (great for Lost Box) and Luminous Energy could be attached as any energy (as long as it is the only Special Energy). The best energy from Paldea Evolved was Reversal Energy, which when attached to an evolution Pokémon without a Rule Box AND if you were behind in prizes, it would act as three energy of any colour. Specific? Definitely. Essential? For those one-prize decks, oh yes.

And The Overall Winner Is…

All good things must come to an end and I have already taken up too much of your valuable time – hopefully there has been some cross-over in my best and your best, and if not, I hope my choices have not been too insulting. It’s been a good year for Pokémon players, even though we may see a lot more Charizard in future and the Lost Box is sadly not going anywhere anytime soon, but at least we are seeing some variety in the meta and evolving Pokémon are back-ish - what will happen there as more Ancient and Future Pokémon are released remains to be seen. But the overall winners are you and me, my fellow Trainer – Pokémon is fun again.

Oh, you want the best set of the year? Paldea Evolved, hands down. Come on, it has United Wings in it… Jerkrow and the three Flamigos FTW!