Pokemust Or Pokescam?
I had buyer’s remorse. I think I’m over it.
Back in November, the Crown Zenith set was announced. It was to be the pinnacle of the Sword and Shield era, gathering together those last remaining Vs, VMAXs and VSTARs – the promos, the outliers, the somehow missed. It also linked up with a Japanese set due to be released, called VSTAR universe. This was a set that was going to focus on the whole VSTAR thing and feature some remarkable looking Trainer Gallery cards. This sounded interesting, exciting and enticing, so after an evening of social interaction (beer), I clicked the pre-order button.
As the months went on, the excitement grew. It was quickly announced that the Elite Trainer Box would contain not only ten (count them!) booster packs but also a never before seen Lucario VSTAR card. BOOM!
Next, VSTAR Universe was released in Japan and was it good? Oh my. EVERY pack contained a V card at least, AND a holo, AND a reverse holo. It also contained reprints of some of the best cards from the sets released over the year as common and uncommons – the good Bibarel, the bench-defending Manaphy, Choice Belt… this really was one for the player and the collectors, because it also had all those gorgeous Trainer Gallery cards like the gold Arceus VSTAR, the alt art Charizard and Mewtwo VSTAR Cards that complimented each other, the alt art Ditto with it pretending to be a Numel. VOOSH!
At the end of 2022, the idea of Crown Zenith being our equivalent of VSTAR Universe made it look beyond awesome.
And then the set lists started to break. Yes, there would be all those fancy cards from VSTAR Universe, but wasn’t there a whole load of cards that hadn’t made it into the main sets? Sure, there were those Vs and VSTARS, but there was more…
And then the openings began…
The Curate’s Egg
This is going to be an honest review, which means that there will be a bit of positive, a bit of negative and then a bit of positive – in the teaching profession, we call it a critical feedback sandwich – I believe other professions may give it a coarser title. This is about the Elite Trainer Box in the main, though, so before I comment on the Crown Zenith set itself, we’ll look at that.
Elite Trainer Boxes for the holiday sets are lovely, and the Crown Zenith box is no exception. There’s a big and bold picture of Lucario on both sides of the box, with cool blue lines on one side and fire red on the other. After removing the sleeve (which curiously has no inner illustration), the same images are repeated on the box itself. Very swish. Also inside the sleeve is the set guide, filled with tantalising images of the delights that may or may not lie inside. This set is a lot bigger than previous holiday sets – this has 159 cards plus 70 Galarian Gallery cards (the fancy ones in the reverse holo slot); whereas Pokemon Go only had 88 including secret rares and Shining Fates had 72 cards plus 120 shiny Secret Vault cards.
Inside the box, you’ll find all the usual contents and then some. The dice are yellow and brown in a kind of banana-toffee chew vibe (don’t eat the dice), the dividers feature Lucario with red detailing on one side and blue on the other, there are the usual vinyl status counters, and the sleeves. The sleeves, however, are bit more player-friendly, with a matt finish and feel rather than the usual shiny gloss.
Then there are the cards. The Lucario is indeed a sight to behold, an avenging dog of war, staring you out, demanding satisfaction of the duelling variety – Mick Jagger, step aside! In a word: stunning. Then there are the booster packs. As this is a holiday set, there is only one pack art, this time featuring the poster Pokemon of the Sword and Shield set, Zacian and Zamazenta.
Oh, and the energy. How could I forget the energy.
Good In Parts 1: The Not So Good
As Pokemon products go, this ETB is really good.
Can you here the ‘but’?
… I have issues with Crown Zenith. I know it is a holiday set so it won’t have the cohesion and theme of something like Lost Origin; I know that this is the last chance to dance with Sword and Shield so this the last opportunity to get some of these cards out. There are, however, some things that shouldn’t have been done, and that’s not just put Helioptile in the set.
Firstly, it should not have been this size. There are some cards that could have been left out because… well, neither the collectors or the players have any use for them. So there was another reprint of Cherubi, so there was another Luvdisc printed – so what? The reason they got left out of previous sets was because they weren’t very good – dumping them in what is a premium set is just an insult. I mean, you don’t go into a restaurant a restaurant, order a fillet steak and that have someone come and dump a half-cooked Pot Noodle on it, do you? These packs are expensive – this ETB is probably the least expensive way of obtaining Crown Zenith packs and they still weigh in at about £4.50 each.
Next, there are the broken evolution lines – Corphishes without Crawdaunts, Seels without Dewgongs, Snorunts without anything. I get that these are Gym Promos but… eh. Then there are the random Stage 1s and NOTHING ELSE - Eelektrik, Dusclops, Krokorok and Graveler. Again, Gym Promos but... I guess it gets my goat because I am more into the game than the collection and I like things to be complete – Mozart had a similar thing with completing musical stanzas when his kids played unfinished tunes on the harpsicord. Not that I am comparing myself to Mozart, but there you go.
Finally, and this is for me so, so mean – not every pack promises at least a holo. Again, call me petty, you wouldn’t be the first and certainly won’t be the last, but if I am paying top dollar for packs, I expect something either pretty, useful or pretty useful.
One of the rares is a Heliolisk non-holo.
Come on, Pokemon! I know you want to make sure we get all the cards from the set, but this? There are just too many rares which were left out because they were just D-list – the Wailord that wasn’t as good as the one in Silver Tempest, the Dragalge that would be really good if it wasn’t so specific and if Scoop Up Net wasn’t going, the Bellossom that makes its reappearance after 8 or so years and is… disappointing. I am on the horns of a dilemma here (yes, there is also a pointless Tauros) as I always complain about the sizes of the main sets, but… it seems wrong to stick the Bargain Basement Pokemon in one of the most expensive sets.
Good In Parts 2: The Good
But I told you at the beginning that I HAD buyer’s remorse, past tense. This is because there are a lot of good reasons to buy this set, and it is not just because it has soooo many pretty cards in this set.
Although that is a big part of it. A very big part of it. But we’ll get to that.
There are some pretty useful cards in the bulk of this set, though it is mainly in the Trainer department. And talking about trainers, there’s a new print of Trekking Shoes, this time from new artist Amelicart, who has also done new art for Rescue Carrier, Lost Vacuum and Ultra Ball. These also appear in this set. There is also a reprint of Pokemon Catcher for those Bossless moments. There are a couple of notable Pokemon though.
The first is a Bidoof, which at first I thought was a reprint of the not as good Bibarel, but because it is Bidoof, not Bibarel, it’s very good indeed. This is because it has an ability that prevents it from taking damage in the bench – great for when your opponent is playing nasty snipe cards like Sableye and you’re waiting for your Bibarel to come. There’s also a new holo Kyogre that does the aforementioned nasty snipe – four energy, put three in your hand and do 180 damage to one of your opponent’s Pokemon.
Oh, I Am Really Going To Miss Frosmoth
And there is a holo version of Ditto, which is a reprint of the one in Pokemon Go. Before we get to the Vs though, we have to talk about the non-holo Luxray – the good one (there are two; the other one is distinctly immemorable). If it was just a stage two, it wouldn’t really be worth looking at. But it has and ability, a really good ability – if you have it in your hand at the beginning of the game, you can play it as your active Pokemon. The attack then allows you to do 50 damage for a single energy and search your deck for two Trainer cards. For all those who remember Talonflame from the XY days, this is that. But better.
There are 17 V cards in the main body of the set, five VMAX and eight VSTAR. A lot of them have been seen elsewhere (like the Leafeon and Glaceon Vs and VSTARs seen previously in promo boxes) or have only appeared as promos in Japan (there are now Rotom, Zamazenta and Zacian VSTAR cards and a Hattarene V and VMAX). There is a V of note though – the mighty Regigigas V and VSTAR. The V has a three-energy attack that does 100 plus 10 extra damage for every damage counter on it, though it ends up Confused, which is pretty impressive if mildly annoying. The VSTAR is huge though – 300 HP, making it the biggest VSTAR EVER and a three-energy attack that does 230 but shuts it down for next turn. It also has an ability that allows you to discard one of their benched Pokemon if they have one prize left. Yeah, probably not, but the rest of it is all gravy.
The real sugar of this set is in the Galarian Gallery, and this sugar is spicy.
Good In Parts 3: The Great
The Trainer Gallery in the previous four main sets are what persuaded me to come back to Pokemon, because they added a second chance at something decent that was lacking in Fusion Strike and Chilling Pain… sorry, Reign. The Trainer Gallery, or Galarian Gallery as it is called here, is next level. Brilliant Stars had 30 Trainer Gallery cards; Crown Zenith has 70. Next Level.
Not only are there more cards, but they are more frequent too. In this set, you might hit a decent card in the rare slot one time out of five or six, due to size of the set compared to the number of Vs and Full Arts. The Galarian Gallery hits are somewhere between one in three and one in two. I will take those odds.
And my goodness, what cards – alt arts, full arts and ultra rares, oh my! There are the cute (Ditto as a Numel and Bibarel in his lodge are just adorable), the delightful (Lumineon V glowing in the inky blackness of the ocean, Glaceon V on the icy tundra, Raikou V going full beast mode), the disturbing (Hisuian Samaurot VSTAR on some kind of ‘vision quest’, Deoxys V being beamed down by a huge Orbeetle, Miltank surrounded by Miltank milk products) and finally the downright stunning – the four god VSTARS, and Mewtwo VSTAR. The Mewtwo VSTAR (drawn by Gossan) has Mewtwo in mortal combat with Charizard and is a partner to the Charizard VSTAR in the Ultra Premium Collection. The Palkia, Dialga, Giratina and Arceus are all gold card, but not like the Rayquaza or Pikachu VMAX from previous sets – these look like they are painted, not dipped in gold. As you can imagine, these are highly desirable and rather spangly.
These are what make this set worthwhile… but is this set for everyone?
The Box Of Delights
I got my box. I was in two minds about opening it, and only a couple of days earlier had considered cancelling my order in a fit of pique. I was glad I didn’t.
The pulls were unreal.
The pictures tell the story, but in the end I pulled two signature trainers (I count these as they are quite useful and/or good looking), two full arts (Hisuian Electrode and Altaria, not shown as I gave this to my son), two Vs (Rotom and Leafeon), a Radiant Charjabug, a Full Art Trainer (Raihan) and the absolutely beautiful Lumineon V. I also got the Alt Art Lucario VSTAR, which comes as a promo in every ETB box. I also got two of the good Luxrays and a brace of Trekking Shoes to go with my flex cards.
Was I glad I got it? You betcha. Is it worth it? This is harder to answer.
If you are purely a player, I would say that this is a ‘take it or leave it’ product. There is no denying how lovely this set is, but if you are looking for very playable cards, there are other, cheaper ways of getting them. You might want to hold out for Scarlet and Violet.
If you are player/collector, like me, you are probably going to be persuaded. Or ask for this as a present. Or have it fall ‘accidently’ into your shopping basket at checkout. Because there are some very, very nice cards here and, with ten boosters, you’ve got at least a fighting chance at seeing some of them, maybe even a hint of gold – get ready to do your gold dance.
If you are a collector, you already have this or have it on order or have just clicked ‘take my money’ because there are some cards here we will never see the likes of again…
… until the Alt Arts in Scarlet and Violet.
That concludes our thoughts on Pokemon Crown Zenith Booster Box. Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts and tag us on social media @zatugames. To buy Pokemon Crown Zenith Booster Box today click here!