Explaining the Different Matchmaking Options in Pokemon Trading Card Game Online


Matchmaking in Pokemon Trading Card Game Online isn’t quite as straightforward as sitting at a table and playing the next available opponent. There are a number of matchmaking modes you can choose from that determine which cards are eligible. Because of this, the type of game you’re agreeing to will vary wildly based on which matchmaking option you choose.

Since the game doesn’t explicitly state what each one entails, let’s take a moment to explain them all!

Standard

Standard is the format used in official Pokemon TGC tournaments. Standard format in Pokemon TGC Online abides by the same rules. The general rule of thumb is that cards released within the last two years are eligible for Standard play, though it will be easier to denote what is Standard and what isn’t in the very near future.

Starting with the Sword & Shield base set, regulation markers were included on cards to easily identify which were deemed legal for standard play. In the 2022 tournament season starting on September 10th, 2021, any cards marked with a letter “D” or “E” in the bottom-left corner will be eligible.

One additional note about the use of theme decks in Standard play. While matchmaking doesn’t allow you to pick a theme deck in Standard play, you can duplicate the theme deck in deck builder and use that copied deck in Standard, assuming all of the cards in the copied deck are eligible for Standard play.

PROS:

  • Same standard that’s used in official Pokemon TGC competition
  • The new V Battle decks are allowed to be used in Standard play
  • The best mix of balanced gameplay and customization by virtue of only allowing the most recent set of cards

CONS:

  • Only allows for the latest run of cards. This also means most theme decks aren’t eligible, as well as any cards from Sun & Moon era and earlier
  • The meta in Standard revolves heavily around cards from booster packs and customized decks. Rolling into Standard play with a non-League Battle pre-made deck is going to be a real struggle. You may want to unlock a few boosters a customize whatever pre-made decks you have with better cards before jumping into Standard play.

Expanded

Introduced by the Pokemon Company during the 2014-2015 season, Expanded format allows for a wider range of cards going all the way back to the Pokemon Black & White era. If you’re playing Pokemon TGC Online, this covers pretty much every card available within the digital game, except for those banned for competitive reasons.

One additional note about the use of theme decks in Expanded play. While matchmaking doesn’t allow you to pick a theme deck in Expanded play, you can duplicate the theme deck in deck builder and use that copied deck in Expanded, assuming all of the cards in the copied deck are eligible for Expanded play.

PROS:

  • Much wider pool of cards allows you leverage more of your legacy cards

CONS:

  • Less balanced game by virtue of sets from different eras interacting with one another. For example, a card designed around defending against EX cards may be rendered useless when most players are using GX and VMax cards
  • As with Standard, the meta in Expanded revolves heavily around cards from booster packs and customized decks. You may want to unlock a few boosters a customize whatever pre-made decks you have with better cards before jumping into Expanded play.

Theme

Theme matchmaking is a mode that’s unique to Pokemon Trading Card Game Online. In this mode, players can only battle using pre-made decks. These decks can either be unlocked online with gold coins or purchased in-store…with one major catch.

PROS:

  • Limiting matchmaking to theme decks makes for an environment that is arguably the most balanced
  • Best place for newcomers to hone their skills without getting obliterated by others who have invested more time and money on cards
  • No need to fret over optimizing your decks between matches, as customizations aren’t allowed

CONS:

  • Theme decks are generally not the strongest decks. Because of this, you are more likely to lose when you don’t draw the cards you need.
  • No pre-made V Battle, League Battle, or Battle Academy decks are allowed in Theme matchmaking
  • Pokemon Company is no longer making traditional Theme decks. Instead, they’re releasing V Battle decks that aren’t compatible with Theme matchmaking. While there are dozens of decks to choose from, the meta has largely gotten stale due to a lack of new decks
  • With many decks only featuring Pokemon of one energy type, type advantage can be a real problem. Being on the wrong end of type advantage makes it incredibly difficult for you to compete.

Legacy

Legacy matchmaking is a mode that’s unique to Pokemon Trading Card Game Online. In this mode, players can only battle using cards from the Pokemon Black & White and Heart Gold & Soul Silver eras. Admittedly, I have no first-hand experience with this format, as my cards don’t go back that far, but I’ll pass along the information I’ve gathered regarding the format.

While I don’t know for certain, I presume that you’ll have to make duplicates of Theme decks that would otherwise qualify for Legacy matchmaking in order to make them work here.

PROS:

  • Ability to limit matchmaking to the two oldest sets of cards, which are balanced differently (generally weaker) from the sets that came afterwards. Regardless, it’s a very different meta that you may prefer.
  • You can still unlock theme decks and boosters from this era

CONS:

  • No new cards are being added to Legacy mode, thus the meta is likely stale
  • No in-game support for Events, which means you can’t participate in online tournaments for a chance at winning coins and booster cards

Unlimited

Anything goes in Unlimited! Even banned cards!

PROS:

  • No limits to what cards can be used

CONS:

  • Only available for use against players on your friends list
  • Banned cards are allowed in this mode. Hopefully you don’t have jerk friends that will exploit banned cards!

While it may be confusing at first, I’m grateful that Pokemon TGC Online gives players more ways to play. In particular, I appreciate the existence of Theme battle, as it’s a great format for newcomers to play against others on a more even playing field. Whichever format you choose to play in at any given moment, I hope you have a great time doing it!


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