Translating the Game: “Switching from YUGIOH to Pokémon TCG”

What’s up everyone, my name is Russell LaParre and I’m back again with another article. As someone who successfully made the transition from the Yugioh TCG to the Pokémon TCG, I wanted to write an article outlining the important things to know, in case you’re considering doing the same. I’ve been playing competitive trading card games for over 10 years now, and the differences between Yugioh and Pokémon are vast. To give you some background on my Yugioh experience, I’ve played since the release of Metal Raiders and have over 10 Regional top 8 finishes, 1 Yugioh Championship Series top 8 finish, and a National top 32 finish. I didn’t attend too many YCS’s and Nationals, but the few that I did attend usually ended with me going the distance and bubbling out. Soon after the release of the Pokémon TCG set Plasma Blast, I made the full switch over from Yugioh to Pokémon due to the competitive circuit and lack of passion for Yugioh. Yugioh became more and more annoying to play and lacked the hand and field advantage that I loved so much in its early years. If you’re reading this article and are considering making the switch, then I hope I can give a few tips on how the two games differ in game play. I’m going to discuss the tournament circuit, game theory, deck building, and the most frequent questions people ask me when considering the switch.

TCG Championship Circuit Contrasts:

Since its inception, the Yugioh Tournament Circuit revolves around getting your invite to Nationals by getting top 4/32/64 at Regionals, which is between 7 to 10 rounds. You’ll then attend Nationals, hoping to make top 4, allowing you to compete at Worlds. YCS events are the next level up from tournaments, providing better prizes than Regionals, while also helping to keep the format fresh after each set release.

Pokémon is quite different than the Yugioh Circuit. In Pokémon, players compete all year to achieve 500 Championship Points (CP) to qualify for their Worlds invite. The points awarded at Pokémon tournaments differ based upon the tier level of the event and the number of players attending.

  • League Challenges are like your local Yugioh tournaments where there could be anywhere from 8 to 50 players attending.
  • League Cups are larger level local events similar to box tournaments, cash tournaments, or state events that typically bring in around 40 to 100 players.
  • Pokémon Regionals have a turnout similar to that of Yugioh Regionals (around 400 to 600 players), but are structured more like a YCS, based on more rounds, larger prizes, and total Championship Points awarded.
  • Pokémon Nationals allows everyone with 5 Play! Points (points you get for attending tournaments or Leagues) to attend. This is the final means for players to achieve Championship Points at the end of the season.

This tournament structure leads to players attending an absurdly high quantity of events compared to Yugioh, so if you’re going for your invite, be prepared to drop a lot of money on travel due to increased number of events and the necessity to attend those events in order to qualify for Worlds.

Different formats:

There are currently 2 formats in the competitive Pokémon Circuit: Standard and Expanded. The Standard Format currently allows all cards from the Primal Clash set to the latest released set. It also includes all promos from XY36 and higher. This also means any old cards that have the exact text and function from the old sets are also legal if they’re reprinted in newer sets. For example, VS Seeker from Phantom Forces (a set rotated from Standard) would still be legal for play, as it was reprinted in Roaring Skies. Most tournaments in the 2016-2017 season will be played in the Standard Format.

The Expanded Format will include all cards from the 2011 Black and White set to the latest released set. This also includes all the Black Star Promos from BW01 and up, and XY01 and up. With the Expanded Format’s larger card pool, you’ll tend to see more powerful decks with more complex strategies.

The rotation of sets for the following year are announced near the beginning of Worlds at the end of the summer. This is another positive contrast to Yugioh, as Pokémon usually rotates out the oldest 4 sets from the Standard Format, meaning your cards will usually retain some form of value for quite some time. Yugioh tends to reprint cards out of nowhere and plummet the secondary market with Ban lists that come out every few months. Your cards go from $100 dollars to $10 overnight.

Game Play Differences:

No actions during your opponent’s turn:

I know this is a tough adjustment, but there’s currently nothing you can do during your opponent’s turn other than remind them of the abilities you have in play. (The previous format had a card called Power Spray which is basically Effect Veiler in Pokemon.) There are no trap cards, abilities to activate during their turn, or Quickplay spells to stop their game plan. You’ll need to prepare for their turn by making the correct plays during your own turn to put yourself in an advantageous position. This is a big reason why cards with passive Abilities that disable basic game mechanics, such as Garbodor BKP’s “Garbotoxin”, Vileplume AOR’s “Irriating Pollen”, or Archeops NVI’s “Ancient Power”, are so powerful. Pokémon has a hefty amount of effects that linger during your opponent’s turn and it’s up to him/her to regulate them.

Card/Hand Advantage:

Card advantage means very little during the early and late game stages of the Pokémon TCG. Hand advantage however means a great deal in terms of calculating the win conditions and lead your opponent can take on you. This is big reason the support card “N” is highly played as it offers a way to slow down your opponent’s field setup. The game is full of Supporter cards that allow players to draw between 3 and 7 cards, so you can’t rely on your opponent drawing dead or putting themselves to a low hand as a strategy to win. In Yugioh, if your opponent has a low hand count and is falling behind in their overall amount of cards, then you gain a significant advantage on them. As the game grew, it turned into more of a battle of Boss Monsters and flood gate control cards, which is similar to how the Pokémon TCG plays. In Pokémon the biggest thing that matters is your field presence. This is usually the number of Pokémon, Energy, Stadium, or tools in play, depending on what’s relevant to the match up you’re playing. Overall, don’t expect your opponent to be losing the game just because they may have 1 or 2 cards in hand. It’s quite possible that it’s going to be a card that nets them many more on their following turn, so you’ll need to prep your game plan accordingly.


Speed of Play:

Overall, I’ve noticed Yugioh players tend to take a lot more time on their game decisions than Pokémon players. This is usually due to the giant toolbox of effects they have at their disposal in their extra deck and the interaction their opponent has during their turn through Traps and Monster Effects. One big thing you’ll want to do when switching over to the competitive side is picking up your pace of play due to the (in my opinion) insufficient amount of time Pokémon rounds provide during Swiss. The game has insane amount of shuffling done after constant deck searching, you’ll notice Pokémon games take a lot longer to complete than Yugioh. Given the short time frame of a match, learning the proper time to scoop a game can be a skill that improves your tournament results dramatically. Scooping a game early is one of the top traits of a good player as it allows you to properly finish a series instead of likely finishing in a tie. My mentality in tournaments is usually “Scoop now and just 2-0 them”.

Prize Management vs Life Points:

Taking prizes in Pokémon is quite different from dealing damage to an opponent in Yugioh. In Pokémon, when you take a prize against the opponent, you create a snowball effect that can lead to you having a large advantage in the match This snowball effect is countered by the big Supporters in the game, “N”, which shuffle your opponent’s hand in the deck and they draw cards equal to the number of prizes they have. When you take a prize lead on an opponent it isn’t necessarily the best thing to do in every scenario. Sometimes your opponent can be strategically feeding you a prize just to hit with you an N and remove your primary attacker on the board. To correctly address this strategy, you’ll need to plan out your future turns anywhere between 2 and 6 turns ahead that way you can see whether or not taking the Prizes now is worth it. Think of it like overextending your hand to deal 6000 damage to the opponent when they can just hit you with a Raigeki, Dark Hole, or Black Rose Dragon and mount a comeback. If you can’t completely close out the game after taking this lead, is it worth it to attack?

The randomization of Prize cards:

In Yugioh, you know every card in your deck and if you have the ability to search for a particular card, you know it’s going to be there. In Pokémon, the randomization of prizes can create scenarios where you end up prizing that card you need to setup or win the game. It’s annoying and it does take a while to get used to. The only way to combat issues like this directly are playing multiple copies of the important cards you need or playing a card called Town Map which reveals all cards in your prizes. Experienced players in Pokémon tend to use their first deck search, usually with Ultra Ball, to go through their deck and check for important cards that are prized. If you look over a few streams you’ll notice players taking anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes during their initial deck search putting together a mental list of what is and isn’t prized. I suggest getting into this habit so you won’t run into a game breaking scenario you planned for and miss out on executing due to not checking if the card was prized at the beginning of the game.


Deck Building



You might’ve noticed in the Pokémon TCG that there are a lot more staples than in Yugioh. Professor Sycamore, N, Lysandre, Ultra Ball, VS Seeker, Trainers’ Mail, and Shaymin-EX are included in a majority of the decks in both the Standard and Expanded format. This is another one of the positive changes coming over from Yugioh as you’ll be able to get a lot more value from your investments in Pokémon since you constantly swap out the same 25-35 cards between each deck. In Yugioh, if you decide to quit playing a certain deck, it can cost you anywhere from $80-$400 dollars in order to build a new one. I think this is a change most players embrace when switching TCGs as the initial cost to invest isn’t all that risky considering the staples that you need to obtain will see play for another year or two.


No Side Deck:

As you may or may not know, there’s no Side Deck in Pokémon. I’ve found this isn’t really a huge issue for players to accept when switching over, but it certainly gets annoying from time to time seeing these “auto-losses” in tournaments. To compensate for bad match ups, veteran players tend to test out different card counts and forms of “tech” answers in their card list in order to find the optimal solution. This is a huge reason why Pokémon players are so secretive with their deck lists and tend to hide most of the knowledge they gain for a major tournament, as they may have discovered how a widely considered “bad matchup” can be swung into their favor with the use of a certain 3 or 4 cards. A large portion of the strategy of the game is deck building, and how you find that perfect blend of consistency, tech, and overall strength to make a solid run in a major tournament.

Card Prices:

For a long time, the Pokémon TCG was much cheaper than Yugioh. Recently, Yugioh put out a lot of reprint sets and the ban lists put a bunch of expensive decks in the dirt, causing a huge price drop. This, paired with the cost of Shaymin-EX rising due to the increased amount of interest in competitive play, I think the Pokémon TCG and Yugioh are almost near the same price to play competitively. The bright side of this, as I mentioned before, is the lasting value you will get out of your cards in the Pokémon TCG as opposed to Yugioh. As I said earlier, the Standard Format only rotates once a year and the Expanded Format includes sets going back all the way to 2014. Most of the time, if you invest money in a highly competitive card, it’s going to hold its value through the length of an entire year, barring no reprint. Shaymin-EX is the biggest deterrent for players to enter the game, as a vast majority of competitive metagame decks use at least 2 copies of the card due to its insane ability to draw cards. If you can afford one or two Shaymin-EX, you should be fine to build multiple Pokémon decks then just swap out the Shaymin-EX whenever you need to use them in a tournament.

That’s all I have for today, I hope you enjoyed my rundown of the main differences when switching over to Pokémon from Yugioh. If you have any questions, feel free to message me or comment below. I’m positive I’ll be adding other thoughts and ideas to this over time so be on the lookout for updates.


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  1. I can not agree more. I made the switch a few months back and all of this holds true. one huge thing that is the same between the 2 games is that creativity is rewarded.


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