The Pokémon Retro TCG Tournament at BelleCON 2013 is designed to level the playing field for old players who haven't kept up with the newest releases over the years. In order to make everything fair, only First Generation sets are allowed (see below), and most Promo cards from the same era. The general rule of thumb is that cards released in English prior to December of 2000 (predating the release of Neo Genesis) are legal.
Over the years, alterations have been made to the rules of the Pokémon TCG, and certain cards have been altered or even banned from tournament play. Many of these decisions were made because, with the addition of newer sets, combinations with older cards opened up exploits or 'cheap' moves. By limiting the tournament to First Generation sets only, these cards are all brought back into legal play, and the tournament is run under era-appropriate rules.
This page will help you identify what cards are legal in the Retro Tournament, and how to build your deck for classic rules.
Identifying Legal Cards
The original Pokémon card set did not have any unique identifying symbols. Today, its lack of a Set Symbol below the lower right corner of the artwork is what makes it identifyable as a Base card. It was released on January 9, 1999, and consists of a total of 102 cards. This set builds an important foundation by including Basic Energy cards, which were not released again until Base Set 2, Gym Heroes, and Gym Challenge.
The first expansion set, identified by a flower resembling a Vileplume's blossom under the right corner of the artwork. The Japanese version of Jungle contains only 48 cards, while the English version contains 64, because Wizards of the Coast chose to make holographic versions of previously non-holographic cards and included them in the set along side their non-sparkly forms. This set contains only one Trainer card, one Psychic pokemon, and no Basic Energy.
The second expansion set, identified by a generic fossilized claw symbol under the right corner of the artwork. Titled "Mystery of the Fossils" in Japan, this deck contained 48 cards, which was expanded to 62 for the English release, using the same method of adding holographic cards that WotC practiced in their release of Jungle. WotC removed a Mew card from the deck and made it a Black Star Promo (see below), but because the promo was released in January of 2000, it is considered legal by Retro Tournament rules.
Base Set 2
A combined reprint exclusive to the English WotC release, and never printed in Japan. This is a mixture of select Base and Jungle cards, with seven Base cards missing and eleven Jungle cards missing from the set. Base Set 2 was not a popular release, but today it helps expand the availability of many early cards, including the valuable Basic Energy cards.
Known in Japan as "Rocket Gang", this 83 card set (65 in Japan) was officially numbered for 82 cards in its English release, but included the "secret" Dark Raichu card that had not been released in Japan (and would not be until Neo 2).
Gym Heroes & Gym Challenge
Originally released in Japan as "Gym Booster 1: Leaders' Stadium" and "Gym Booster 2: Challenge from the Darkness", these two sets underwent significant changes before they were released in English. In an effort to balance the types of cards in the sets, remove two gag cards, as well as alter 'unsuitable' artwork, the sets wound up significantly shuffled together. These sets also contain Basic Energy cards.
The exception to our "pre December 2000" rule. The Legendary Collection is a WotC reprint, and is essentially "Base Set 3", but contains cards from Base, Jungle, Fossil, and Team Rocket, but no Basic Energy. Like Base Set 2, it was never released in Japan.
Black Star Promos
These promotional cards were produced by WotC, and numbered 53 in total before Wizards lost their license and Nintendo carried on the Black Star Promo design with a smaller font. Because of the printing dates, only the first 23 cards are valid in the Retro TCG Tournament. They are as follows:
- Pokemon League "Ivy" Pikachu
- Mewtwo Strikes Back Electabuzz
- Mewtwo Strikes Back Mewtwo
- Mewtwo Strikes Back Pikachu
- Mewtwo Strikes Back Dragonite
- Pokemon League Arcanine
- First Movie Soundtrack Jigglypuff
- Pokemon League Mew (Jan 2000)
- Pokemon League Mew (Apr 2000)
- Gameboy TCG Meowth
- Pokemon League Eevee
- Nintendo Power Mewtwo
- Game Guide Venusaur
- Mewtwo Strikes Back VHS/DVD Mewtwo
- Cool Porygon
- Computer Error
- Nintendo Power Dark Persian
- Pokemon League Team Rocket's Meowth
- Nintendo Power Sabrina's Abra
- Pokemon League Psyduck
- The Power of One Moltres
- The Power of One Articuno
- The Power of One Zapdos
The "______'s Pikachu" (otherwise known as Happy Birthday Pikachu) was released at the tail end of the valid timeframe, but even then it was immediately considered banned by WotC upon release. Both Japanese prints have the clause "(This card can't be used in official tournaments)" on the card bottom, which is missing in the English version.
While not a Black Star Promo, the Ancient Mew card is a common promo card in the US, which is banned from all tournament usage. Its 'medieval Futhark Runic and Gothenburg Runic' language is unavailable in a proper English translation.
Constructing Your Deck
Every Pokémon Retro deck consists of 60 cards, no more and no less. You cannot have more than 4 of any one card, with the exception of Basic Energy cards (Fighting, Fire, Grass, Lightning, Psychic, and Water). There are numerous other kinds of Energy cards (Double Colorless Energy, Rainbow Energy, Potion Energy, and Full Heal Energy), but these do not count as Basic Energy, and therefore, you can only have four of each of them in your deck. Most decks will need 25 to 30 Basic Energy cards.
When it comes to populating your deck with Pokemon, the 'no more than four of any one card' rule has some very particular situations. For example, a deck can contain two Pikachus from the Base Set and two Pikachus from the Jungle Set, but even though the two have different move sets, they are considered the same and therefore are limited to four total. The exception lies in cards with different names. For example, a deck can contain four Base Set Pikachus, as well as four of Lt. Surge's Pikachu from Gym Heroes, because Lt. Surge's Pikachu has a different name.
There are many different deck-building strategies, and they almost all begin by figuring out what play style you would like to achieve. Most players begin by finding one or more Pokemon with abilities that they believe will be useful to them, and then selecting energy cards and Trainer Cards that suit it well. Some instead begin by picking Trainer Cards and then building a selection of Pokemon around them.
There are no requirements for how many Basic Energy cards you must have, or of what types. Most players will pick no more than two Basic Energy types for their deck, so that there's enough energy to draw the type they need with some degree of certainty. It's common practice to choose types that cover each other's Weaknesses and Resistances, such as Water and Lightning, or Fire and Grass.
In addition to your cards, you will need other items for playing. Though not a requirement for general play, the Pokémon Retro TCG Tournament at BelleCON will require all 60 of your cards to be inside of matching sleeves that are opaque on the back side. This is to prevent cards from being marked in such a way that they can be identified while face-down. It makes it easier for our tournament judges to check each deck, allows players to use English and Japanese cards together, and it also helps to prevent the likelihood of one player's cards becoming confused with the deck of another player. You may also choose to invest in a deck box or tin, since the card sleeves will add to the thickness of your deck considerably.
You will need damage counters. These can be anything, from cardboard circles, to pennies, to glass bead counters. The only requirement is that they be flat on one side so that they will not roll around the table. For the sake of simplicity, every counter will count as 10 damage in the Pokémon Retro TCG Tournament, rather than having different denominations.
You will also need a coin for flipping. It can be metal or plastic, and must be deemed a balanced and fair coin by our judges. Cardboard coins will not be accepted, even if they do have Pokémon on them.