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For this week’s Pokémon Card of the Day reviews we are looking at significant cards from the Legacy Format. The Legacy Format consists of all releases from the HeartGold/SoulSilver series, Call of Legends expansion, and Black & White series. It was specifically created for the Pokémon TCG Online (PTCGO) in response to issues with the Unlimited Format there. The PTCGO lacks any releases from before HeartGold/Soulsilver, so what it called the Unlimited Format was very different from the Unlimited Format of the physical TCG, which allows cards all the way back to the original Base Set. Even with a much smaller card pool, the problems that plague the physical Unlimited Format were still a problem on the PTCGO: overly potent decks, including at least one that could win on win on a player’s first turn reliably (and more reliably if it was the overall first turn of the game!). Though you can always choose what you and your friends want to allow each other to run, a major part of the appeal of the PTCGO is just hopping on, playing someone else who happens to be online at the same time, and earning rewards. Older cards also required a good bit of effort to acquire in the PTCGO; I don’t know how many but apparently enough players wanted a new way to play that we got the Legacy Format. I personally didn’t care until after I gave it a try and realized it was pretty fun. It creates an exciting new experience for the Pokémon TCG: a stable card pool with diverse mechanics.
So far, several decks seem competitively viable in the Legacy Format, though some are clearly stronger than others. Exactly what is best seems to fluctuate as counters exist for most of the strong decks. Here is an article running through the decks I’ve either used or run into often for the Legacy Format. It doesn’t contain the full decklists, but names the decks, some key cards, and the basic strategy. The Card of the Day articles this week each focus on a general usage card for the Legacy Format. Rather than including a detailed explanation of the fundamentals of the Legacy Format in each review, I split it off and expanded on it make for a separate article. You are reading a revised version of the original article: after discussing things with aroramage we have included some additional explanations for the Legacy Format. Most of the additions pertain to rulings that apply to the Unlimited Format of the physical TCG, a form of play so rarely used in an official capacity that it is now quite obscure for players who aren’t long term or a bit obsessive like myself. I’ll be using the usual formatting you see in my CotD articles as I write: card names are italicized while set names underlined, excluding where it might make things more confusing instead of less. I will use the shorthand “HS-era” to refer to things from the HeartGold/SoulSilver series plus Call of Legends; technically Call of Legends is not a part of the set block but for our purposes the distinction won’t matter. “BW-era” shall similarly be used when discussing things from the Black & White series and “XY-era” for cards released as part of the XY series; in all cases this means not only cards but rules as well.
For those that want actual sets and promos, the Legacy Format includes
The next most pressing question is which iteration of the game’s rules are to be used, as they have changed over time (especially the first turn rules). Regardless of what they were when the cards were released, you follow the most recent version of the game’s rules. That means even though the player going first could attack when all the cards in the Legacy Format were originally released, the current first turn rules are in effect and so the player going first does not get to attack on his or her first turn. Similarly, cards that have had their text changed via errata or later re-releases also follow their most current versions as well; for example Potion allows you to heal 30 damage, Pokémon Catcher requires a coin flip, etc. One assume that any future rule changes, errata, etc. will also be applied to cards in the Legacy Format.
Some of the game mechanics have changed over time as well. When the game began with Base Set, we had three core card Types (Pokémon, Trainers, and Energy). Trainers had no major divisions within them for the first few sets, but slowly gained subclasses like Pokémon Tools, Stadiums, Supporters, Technical Machines, etc. When Diamond & Pearl released, those three core card types became the five core card types (Pokémon, Trainers, Stadiums, Supporters, and Energy). Stadium and Supporter cards were introduced well before Diamond & Pearl, but at this time they were split off from other Trainers and into their own card types in an attempt at streamlining the game. This state persisted until the release of Black & White, when we returned to three core card types (Pokémon, Trainers, and Energy). Black & White is when Item cards first officially appeared, and they included what used to be “normal” Trainer cards, Pokémon Tools, and anything else that was not a Supporter or Stadium card. The combination of HS-era and BW-era cards means we have some Trainer cards that state they are an “Item” while some just state they are a “Trainer”, Stadium cards labeled as “Trainer” alongside those just labeled as “Stadium”, and Supporter cards labeled as “Trainers” alongside those just labeled as “Supporter”. Resolving this is much easier than it looks. It has been ruled that all past Trainer cards which are not a Stadium or Supporter are to be treated as Items, while all past Stadium and Supporter cards are to be considered to also be Trainer cards by its modern definition.
The only place you have to stop and think is when reading the effect text on cards released from Diamond & Pearl until (but not including) the Black & White expansion. In this case we only have to worry about the HS-era releases, as the BW-era followed the same templates and rules as the current cards. When an HS-era card says “Trainer”, read it as if it said “Item”. When it says “Supporter” and/or “Stadium”, you still just read that normally. When a card effect from this era applies to all Trainer cards, the text will read along the lines of “Trainer, Supporter, and Stadium cards”. So Skyla can grab not only any BW-era Trainer card, but any HS-era card labeled as Trainer or Stadium or Supporter: all those cards count as Trainer cards under the modern rules. When Dragonite (BW: Plasma Freeze 83/116) uses is “Deafen” attack to prevent the opposing player from playing Item cards from hand during his or her next turn, it will also block the HS-era cards labeled as Trainer cards, because they count as Items. When you use Junk Arm to reclaim a card from your discard pile, while it says it can grab any “Trainer card” but itself, we treat it as grabbing any “Item card” but itself because all past Trainer cards that weren’t Stadium or Supporter cards are treated as Item cards. Even if you find this a bit tricky, remember that the PTCGO itself won’t allow you to break these rules; at worst you should realize why you can or cannot do something that doesn’t quite match the printed card text but does match the guidelines I just gave.
The second major game mechanic difference is in the form of Pokémon card effects. Applying to all HS-era Pokémon effects is the “self-referencing rule”. On modern cards, when a Pokémon has an effect that applies to itself, the text will read “this Pokémon”. This makes it less confusing when one Pokémon copies the effect from another, or when writing an effect that applies to all cards with the same name. For some reason, prior to Black & White all Pokémon with effects that applied to themselves did not read “this Pokémon”, but instead stated the name of the Pokémon in question. When such an effect was copied by another Pokémon, you had to remember to insert the name of the Pokémon using the effect. If an effect was meant to apply to all Pokémon with a certain name, it would include additional wording to distinguish it. I do not remember and do not have time to search through the 400-500 Pokémon of the HS-era to see if there were any exceptions; in the end you just have to read the cards very carefully. So when you see a card like Pichu (HeartGold/SoulSilver 28/123), which never states “this Pokémon” but instead says “Pichu” multiple times in its Poké-Body and attack text, each each instance of “Pichu” as “this Pokémon”.
Another more minor difference that you can see on that Pichu are zero Energy attacks. Though you can attack for no Energy in the modern game, it requires specific card effects; beginning with Diamond & Pearl but stopping before Black & White some cards would be printed with attacks that naturally required no Energy. This “No Energy” symbol is simply a lightly shaded circle; it has no Energy Type and literally has no color of its own, though it will look like it because of the background coloring of the card. Very few Pokémon in the XY-era have more than just two attacks; though I could find no examples in the HS-era cards, there were some past Pokémon with three or even four attacks printed on them (as opposed to having additional attacks via a card effect). While nothing has two Abilities in the BW-era or XY-era, some cards did have both a Poké-Body and Poké-Power, but again I could find none in the HS-era cards. I bring all of this up in case I missed an example, but also to lead into what I did find; while BW-era and XY-era cards can have an Ability and a single attack printed on them, you will encounter some HS-era cards that have either a Poké-Body or Poké-Power plus two attacks.
When the game first began in the Base Set, the non-attack effect was called a “Pokémon Power”. Eventually this was split into two subgroups: the “Poké-Body” which was usually passive and always on and the Poké-Power which usually required you intentionally use it and would not work while the Pokémon in question was afflicted by a Special Condition. Pokémon Powers do not show up on the HS-era cards, but if you happen to be using even older cards for Unlimited Format play, know that when card text states it affects Pokémon Powers, it also applies to Poké-Bodies and Poké-Powers and when the text affects both Poké-Bodies and Poké-Powers the same way it also works on Pokémon Powers. What you will find in the HS-era cards are that some effects only apply to Poké-Bodies or Poké-Powers, which was the very reason Pokémon Powers were split. Abilities are totally separate from Pokémon Powers, Poké-Bodies, and Poké-Powers. The most relevant example is if Garbodor (BW: Dragons Exalted 54/124; BW: Plasma Freeze 119/116; BW: Legendary Treasures 68/113) is in play with a Pokémon Tool attached so that its “Garbotoxin” is in effect, all Abilities other than Garbotoxin will not work but both Poké-Bodies and Poké-Powers will still function. This provides a useful check and balance as shutting down all Abilities may not stop all non-attack Pokémon tricks in a deck; some Poké-Bodies and/or Poké-Powers would otherwise be eclipsed by a similar Ability, but this difference leaves them both useful.
To put it in pseudo-mathematical formulas:
Pokémon Powers = Poké-Bodies + Poké-Powers
Ability =/= Poké-Body =/= Poké-Power
Another older mechanic that is no longer used on modern cards but which still appears in some HS-era effects is the “Lost Zone”. The Lost Zone can be thought of like a second discard pile, but one that cards can only be sent to by certain effects, and there are no card effects that can reclaim a card that has been sent to the Lost Zone. This is the Pokémon TCG version of the “Removed From Game” or “Removed From Play” concept found in other TCGs. One major difference from the other games with this mechanic is that most kept it around long enough that eventually there was a way to return cards from this location to your hand, the field, your deck, your discard pile, etc. The Pokémon TCG never did; a card in the Lost Zone stays in the Lost Zone until the game is over. The PTCGO does not feature best two out of three gameplay, but if it did you would return any cards in the Lost Zone to your deck between games. Though stuck there, some effects do still allow you to make use of cards in the Lost Zone.
One notable example Stadium Lost World, which lets a player declare him- or herself the winner if six or more of the other player’s Pokémon have been sent to the Lost Zone. Mew (HS: Triumphant 97/102) has a Poké-Body called “Lost Link” that allows it to copy attacks from Pokémon in either player’s Lost Zone.
That is it for this article; the rest is general Pokémon TCG knowledge, but if you need more help check out the reviews for this week, as well as some of the older ones for the other HS-era and BW-era cards. Some cards are used very similarly to how they were used back when they were new, and some are played not much differently from how they are used in the Expanded Format.
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