The Pokémon TCG has certain elements to it that aren't clearly standardized. This document aims to resolve these issues by providing clear guidelines on how to structure and represent various kinds of data. Also see card database inconsistencies.
The Pokémon TCG has different versions based on its geographic location. The available TCG regions are:
An expansion code is a small piece of text that (not always uniquely) identifies an expansion. For older expansions, the code isn't often shown or referred to, but can be easily found on various Pokémon TCG sources. The expansion code is often shown as the expansion symbol itself. An expansion can have zero, one or many codes.
A card is uniquely defined by an expansion and a number. If a card doesn't have a number, the number sorting order is used instead (see number sorting order).
The card name is the text found at the top left of a card. It excludes any other information such as the Pokémon stage. The official Pokémon TCG checklists can be used as a reference. All cards have a name.
The card number is the small piece text found at the bottom left or right of a card. It's used to identify a card within an expansion. Not all (but most) cards have a number. The card number must always include the right/denominator part (if available), e.g., 58/102. Card numbers don't always have a right part and can also be strictly text, e.g., ONE and AR7. The official Pokémon TCG checklists can be used as a reference.
Sometimes, the small piece of text at the bottom of the card isn't a card number. A list of all values that are considered invalid card numbers can be found here.
Number sorting order
Because card numbers aren't strictly integers and not all cards have a number, a separate integer number is required to determine the position of cards within the expansion list. This integer must be greater or equal to 1 and must be incremented by steps of 1. It can often be deduced from the card number, e.g., 58 from 58/102. If a card doesn't have a number, the number sorting order is used instead to identify it within an expansion.
A card with the same expansion and number (or number sorting order) often has different versions. These different versions are called variants. A card has at least one variant.
A card variant has a type. This type is used to uniquely describe it within the context of a card. A card variant type may belong to one or more categories which are described below.
The current conventions regarding card variants have several issues. More information about these issues and how they might be addressed can be found here.
The standard set consists of card variants that are shown as the first column on official Pokémon TCG checklists. However, not all expansions have an official checklist. Therefore, if one of the following criteria is true, an expansion is considered to have a standard set:
- The expansion has an official checklist with a standard set column.
- Most cards of the expansion have a number with a right part, e.g.,
- The cards were released at the same time with the intention of being collected as a set. This means that promotional cards such as the Black Star Promos cannot have a standard set variant by definition.
The standard set often has a complementary set called the parallel set. This parallel set is shown as the second column on official Pokémon TCG checklists. However, not all expansions have an official checklist. Therefore, if one of the following criteria is true, an expansion is considered to have a parallel set:
- The expansion has an official checklist with a parallel set column.
- The expansion has a standard set and meets all of the following criteria:
- All cards with a regular rarity (see 1*) have a secondary (non-standard set) variant.
- All of the secondary card variants feature an identical pattern (often reverse holographic).
- The identical pattern is used exclusively for the secondary card variants (within the same expansion). If not, the secondary card variant is either a secondary standard set or other card variant.
A card cannot have multiple parallel set variants at once, unless they're variations of the same variant. These variations include errors, corrected errors, slight aesthetic differences, or specific Pokémon patterns (such as the wing patterns of the Vivillon Pokémon).
1*: A regular rarity of a card is defined as Common, Uncommon, Rare, Rare Holo, or any other rarity with an equivalent tier.
1st edition print
The first print run of an expansion is called the 1st edition print. It's identified by a Edition 1 stamp on the card. The print run that comes after 1st edition is called the unlimited print run. Usually only older expansions have a 1st edition print run. Most expansions only have an unlimited print run.
A 1st edition card is considered a variant and is almost always part of the standard set. In some rare cases it can also be part of the parallel set, usually also featuring a reverse holographic pattern.
Naming variant types
- A card variant type name must be atomic. It must be as specific as possible without describing multiple properties at once.
- A card variant type should have a name that is visually descriptive. However, this isn't always preferable or possible. Such cases are:
- The card variant type is conceptual in nature. For example, standard set, parallel set, and prerelease card variant types.
- The type describes a card variant that is part of a larger series or specific product. In other words, it could be considered some kind of special "expansion". For example, seasonal calendars, promotional cards from restaurant chains, specific events, and special decks.
- The visual description is ambiguous because it applies to multiple card variant types. In this case, the name must uniquely describe how, where, or in which product the card variant can be obtained.
- A card variant type name cannot contain the
,character. It's reserved for combining multiple card variant types (see assigning variants § combining variant types).
- When creating a variation of an existing card variant type, "qualifier" braces must be used, e.g., Cosmos Holo (Missing HP) and 1st Edition (Shadowless) (Red Cheeks). Each qualifier must have its own braces, separated by a space character. A qualifier cannot be or refer to an existing card variant type, unless the standard or parallel set is used in a literal sense, e.g., Parallel Set (Confetti Holo).
- Because the official Pokémon TCG checklists define both a holographic and non-holographic standard set card variant, the holographic card variant isn't considered a variation of the non-holographic one. This means that two separate card variants need to be named instead of using "qualifier" braces. For example, Standard Set and Standard Set Foil are correct, but Standard Set and Standard Set (Foil) are not. When creating a variation of one of these two card variants, the regular "qualifier" rules apply.
- Each variant must have a type that uniquely describes it within the context of a card. If a card variant type cannot be used to uniquely describe a card variant (the same card variant type can be used to refer to two or more card variants), either see combining variant types, or create a new card variant type.
- If the card has a standard set and/or a parallel set variant, then these variants must be assigned first. Additional card variants that differ from the standard and parallel set card variants can be assigned subsequently.
- If a standard or parallel set card variant has characteristics that deviate strongly from regular cards, then these characteristics must also be included in the card variant type name (see combining variant types). Jumbo sized cards are a primary example of this.
- If a card has only one variant and that variant is neither a standard or parallel set variant, then the Promo card variant type can be used as a (temporary) placeholder. The Promo card variant type prevents you from having to do research on the visual characteristics of a card variant, such as its holographic pattern.
- Although a single type might suffice to uniquely describe a card variant, in some rare cases it's a good idea to combine an additional type in order to avoid confusion (see combining variant types). Play! Pokémon Prize Pack card variants are a primary example of this, because a lot of seemingly random cards might have both a holographic and non-holographic variant, or one of both. Combined examples of this card variant type are: Play! Pokémon Prize Pack, Non-holo and Play! Pokémon Prize Pack, Vertical Line Holo.
Combining variant types
Sometimes, a card has two or more variants that refer to the same type, but they differ in other characteristics such as the holographic pattern. In such cases, there are two options:
If the other characteristics refer to existing card variant types, then new card variant type(s) that combine multiple types must be created:
,character must be used followed by a space to separate the card variant types, e.g., Darkness Ablaze Stamp, Jumbo Size.
The least amount of card variant types in order to uniquely describe the new type must be used. Otherwise the list will grow too long. An exception is made for characteristics that refer to holographic patterns (including non-holographic). For example, Yellow A Alternate, Non-holo and Yellow A Alternate, Sheen Holo are correct, but Yellow A Alternate and Yellow A Alternate, Sheen Holo are not.
Standard and parallel set card variant types must be listed before other types.
Card variant types describing a holographic pattern (including non-holographic) must be listed last, e.g., Jumbo Size, Sheen Holo.
The other characteristics don't refer to existing card variant types. In such case, new card variant type(s) using "qualifier" braces must be created (see variant type naming).
A card always has a supertype. It's not shown on the card itself, but it can be easily identified. The available card supertypes are:
Card types are more specific descriptions of card supertypes. They aren't explicitly listed on cards, but can be deduced from various aspects. They are treated like tags, meaning that a card can have multiple types at once (optionally ordered by their importance). If there are no specific types for a Pokémon or Trainer card, then the generic Pokémon or Trainer card types must be used as a fallback. These fallback card types cannot be combined with other card types. For example, Pokémon and Ultra Beast aren't allowed to be used together.
The stage of the Pokémon (e.g., Basic and Stage 1) isn't considered a card type, because it specifically relates to the evolution status of the Pokémon. It's defined separately as Pokémon stage.
Some rarities imply a card type as well. Official examples are Rare Holo ex as Pokémon ex and Holo Rare V as Pokémon V. However, some rarities don't have an official card type, although it would make sense for them to have one. Examples are Rare Rainbow and Rare Shiny. Although not official, card types must be created for these rarities as well, because otherwise, it would make filtering on cards with the Promo rarity impossible.
The Pokémon stage can be found at the top left of a card. Usually only Pokémon cards have a stage.
A card can be an evolution of another Pokémon or Trainer card. This information is usually found at the top left of a card. evolves from must include the full card name mentioned on the card; not just the name of the Pokémon.
evolves into can only be used for cards that explicitly mention it. This is usually the case for Pokémon cards with the Baby Pokémon stage. A Pokémon can evolve into one or more other Pokémon. evolves into must include the full card names mentioned on the card; not just the names of the Pokémon.
Energy types are used for both Pokémon and Energy cards. For Pokémon cards, the energy type(s) of the Pokémon itself are used. For Energy cards, every energy provided is used. It doesn't take into account multiple energies of the same type.
The number of provided energies might differ for later reprints of certain Energy cards such as Rainbow Energy, because some energy types (such as Fairy) were introduced later on.
A Pokémon or Energy card has at least one energy type.
The available energy types and their codes are:
- Grass (G)
- Fire (R)
- Water (W)
- Lightning (L)
- Psychic (P)
- Fighting (F)
- Darkness (D)
- Metal (M)
- Fairy (Y)
- Dragon (N)
- Colorless (C)
There are two kinds of card rules: official and generic rules. The official card rules are recognized for competitive play. The generic card rules can be anything that provides additional information, but doesn't fit the definition of a card description. No distinction must be made between the different types of card rules, but it's recommended to provide an additional "flag" whether a card rule is official or not.
Rules can be found anywhere on the card, including the yellow/gray border. Sometimes, a specific name for the rule might be shown on the card, e.g., VMAX rule. If so, chances are high this is an official rule.
A card can have zero, one, or many rules.
Abilities, Pokémon Powers, Ancient Traits, etc., are grouped together as card "effects". A card can have zero, one, or many effects.
Weaknesses and resistances
Card weaknesses and resistances can usually be found at the bottom of Pokémon cards. They always have an (energy) type and a value. A card can have zero, one, or many weakness(es) and resistance(s). If no value is shown next to the weakness or resistance on the card, a value of ×2 is implied.
The retreat cost can be found at the bottom of Pokémon cards next to the weaknesses and resistances. If the Pokémon has no retreat cost, 0 is implied. 0 cannot be used for Trainer and Energy cards.
The rarity can be deduced from the symbol found at the bottom left or right of a card (not to be confused with the expansion symbol). Not all cards have a rarity.
The illustrator(s) can be found at the bottom of a card. A card can have zero, one or many illustrators.
Pokédex numbers only apply to Pokémon cards. If the card name contains multiple Pokémon, the Pokédex number of each Pokémon must be used from left to right.
The format indicates the legality of a card regarding competitive play. All cards have a format. It can be deduced from the regulation mark. For older cards that don't have a regulation mark, information can easily be found on official Pokémon TCG sources. The available card formats are:
The regulation mark indicates the legality of a card regarding competitive play. It's indicated as a single uppercase letter at the bottom left of a card. Older cards don't have a regulation mark, which is why format also exists as a more general classification that encompasses all cards.