Starting Pokemon trading cards
January 21, 2017 6:40 AM   Subscribe

Kiddo has discovered Pokemon trading cards. What's a cheap and useful strategy in terms of a starter pack or two that will enable him to get going with his friends? I know nothing about this and am overwhelmed by the choices and 'systems' ... Thank you!
posted by carter to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
As long as your kiddo isn't entering the "tournament scene", where things like legal/banned cards matter, just go and pick up whatever starter kit you can find at Walmart.

My son (8) has a ton of Pokemon cards, but frankly he's more interested in knowing the characters and being impressed by the shiny foil cards than actually playing the game.
posted by jozxyqk at 7:16 AM on January 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Starter pack from anywhere ~24.00. Pace individual cards as a reward. Pokemon packs gave anywhere from 7- 10 cards per 4.99 foil booster... dole it out slowly as behavioral rewards.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:35 AM on January 21, 2017

If he's going to play (rather than look/collect) he needs a deck. A deck is made up of 60 cards. There are 3 types of cards: Pokemon themselves to battle with, Energy cards to "pay" for attacks and Trainer cards to support your play (e.g. Potion Trainer to heal, a Trainer to look for a card in your deck). You can buy these cards individually, in Booster packs or Blind bags or in an already assembled into a Deck. You'll want to get the last one probably (any kind with an image your child is attracted to, other than preferences in favourite pokemon the decks will all play similary for a beginner) to get a feel for the ratio of Pokemon to Trainer to Energy cards.

The children at our library learned how to play on Trainer Decks like this one. It comes with two 30 card decks that are ready to play with, very specific instructions to set up and start a game, and once you've mastered the rules you can combine the two 30 decks into one regular 60 card deck.

Once he's developed his own technique you can go to card stores and buy individual cards or Booster packs to mix and match into his deck.

Happy playing!
posted by eisforcool at 9:21 AM on January 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

I can understand feeling overwhelmed. Both my kids are super into Pokemon and it can be exhausting. Fortunately, of all the trading card games (TCG), Pokemon seems to be the most straight forward. As far as I can tell there are not multiple systems in Pokemon. There are sets and themes that align with whatever the video games and TV shows and associated media are doing but all cards are compatible with one another and part of the same fundamental game.

As with all TCG, there is a pay-to-win element where kids with more money can buy and amass more powerful cards to form decks that will completely dominate standard or starter decks. For this reason, we tried to steer our kids away from booster packs for as long as possible and restrict games to those between standard (as opposed to custom) decks.

The other risk with TCG is inter-personal conflict due to trading and "unfair" trades. In the end I've come around to seeing this as a net positive experience for kids to learn about equity, fairness, and trader's-remorse - as long as parents are intervening to guide the process when it goes really south and ensure kids aren't getting bullied into participating in lop-sided exchanges.

OK, so as to your most basic question: How to start:

Here you have two options, you can either buy a "trainer kit" which contains two 30-card half-decks which can be played against each other and then combined into a single full-sized starter deck to be played against friends or you can buy one or two starter decks (if you want to play against your kiddo or give them options for trying out different deck types).

In either case, the start-deck or trainer deck will come with an insert which explains the rules of the game and walks you through how to play.

Good luck, and watch your (and their) pocket book(s). Ever since Pokemon it's been a struggle to get the kids to ask for anything else for Birthdays/Christmas and to think about saving up allowance for anything other than booster packs. I'm fine with the game, but it has a tendency to become an obsession.
posted by lucasks at 9:22 AM on January 21, 2017

For kids with no intention of doing tournaments, the preconstructed decks are great. They're of similar power to each other, even though they'd get wrecked in a real tournament. So a group of kids can play against each other, and it would be fair.

What's great is that if they get into it, you can pick up another deck or two, and let them rotate around.

The issue around trading is real, but can be avoided by just banning it for now, since the preconstructed decks aren't meant to be taken apart & put back together. And really, there aren't any real valuable cards in them anyway.

Once booster packs start getting opened, the power level of cards will start to vary widely. And generally the booster packs are a "waste of money" in the sense that you'll nearly never open cards that are worth what you paid for the pack.

Later on, if your child wants to get into deck building for themselves - a website like may be helpful. You could give them a budget of "$20" to build a deck. There are lots of cards that aren't good enough for tournament play, but much stronger than preconstructed deck standards that would be a fun upgrade, for pretty cheap. Hit me up on mefi mail if/when this comes around - there's a core to a good deck that's both cheap, and very powerful, but no need to go into it now.

As for other materials - sleeves will be important if they start deckbuilding, since many of the powerful cards require you to shuffle the deck (which is easier with sleeves), but those cards don't show up much in the preconstructed decks. Cheap ones are fine - expect about $9 for 100. Playmats are soft "mousepad" type material that can make it easier to pick up & move cards around.
posted by cschneid at 10:37 AM on January 21, 2017

If it's just about having cards, I bought my son this 100 card set when he was just starting out and it was awesome. It's much cheaper than buying individual packs, and it gives you quantity. Are they they the best cards? Not necessarily, but does that matter if you're a little kid and just starting out?
posted by MythMaker at 5:20 PM on January 21, 2017

I found some college kid on craigslist and just bought his collection for like $30. He was happy that his collection was going to some kid that would enjoy them as much as he would, and my kids a ton of cards.
posted by joshfeingold at 8:50 AM on January 22, 2017

My kids only ever cared about quantity and filling up their binders, and trading with other like-minded kids on our block. We got them lots of freebies on our neighborhood FB sale/giveaway group, and you can buy a lot of random cards for cheap on Amazon. (They never moved beyond that into playing the game.)
posted by candyland at 12:31 PM on January 22, 2017

Getting started is easy, as others have noted, especially if you don't actually play the game, which seems to be common among my child's peers. Powering up is hard because the booster packs are so expensive. You can even find videos that consist of nothing but people opening packs of cards, like the unboxing videos for electronics. The only real warning I have, beyond that it is trivial for a child to spend almost all their Christmas money on cards just to trade, is that the cards themselves are physically cheap crap. A $4 pack of baseball cards at least is glossy, quality cardstock, but the Pokemon cards are well below playing card durability, even a 52-card deck of cards from the dollar store is superior. So make sure your kid keeps them in a box or binder so they don't get wet or dirty. I'm not talking about maintaining them in mint condition for sale; simply keeping them in one piece and legible is something of a challenge.
posted by wnissen at 11:37 AM on January 23, 2017

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