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11 best Pokémon TCG cards, from shiny Charizard to Surfing Pikachu

Quite the catch.

The very best Pokémon cards stand out just a little bit more than the rest. This can be due to your own childhood nostalgia from playing the video games and memories of picking up the basics of how to play the Pokémon TCG, because they’re especially popular or powerful, or simply because they’re really beautiful cards thanks to the extraordinary art of the Pokémon TCG illustrators, showcased with alternate artwork and full-art cards. Fan-favourite and powerful Pokémon cards are what everyone's looking for; a range of unique legendaries to fill out your deck with the best Pokémon cards ever made.

Best Pokémon TCG cards

It's not easy, though. With thousands upon thousands of Pokémon cards and would-be trainers each having their own preferences for types, Pokémon and abilities, it's hard to pin down what makes the ‘best’ Pokémon cards. Do you measure the success of a Pokémon card by how well-known it is, whether it's one of the rarest Pokémon cards ever made or how far it carries a competitive pro player in the Pokémon TCG World Championships?

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Everyone has their own list of favourites, but one thing is certain: the most important thing about a Pokémon card is the ability for players to have fun with it. That could be by collecting it, playing casual matches with friends or even securing a place in the next round of a major tournament. Every card you choose to include in your deck makes it unique, and if it’s important to you - for any reason - that’s as good a reason as any to include it.

With all that in mind, here are ten of the best Pokémon cards from throughout the trading card game’s long history and many expansions. They include the powerful and the beautiful, the common and the hard-to-find, the familiar and the more obscure. The one thing they have in common, though, is you’ve gotcha catch ‘em all.


1. Shaymin EX (Full Art)

A powerful and popular Pokémon card with a game-winning ability

Shaymix EX's powerful Set Up ability has made it one of the most popular Pokémon cards of recent years.

During the Roaring Skies era of the Pokémon TCG, Shaymin was a must-have staple for almost every deck. It was used by competitive players and amateurs alike due to its ability Set Up, which allows the player to fill their hand with up to six cards from their deck when the Pokémon is first put into play.

With this ability able to tilt the most tightly-contested of games, Shaymin EX became a highly sought-after Pokémon card, selling for high prices on auction sites such as eBay and becoming some players’ prized Pokémon TCG possession.


2. Surfing Pikachu

One of the most iconic Pokémon and Pokémon cards of all time

Surfing Pikachu first appeared in the early days of the TCG, and it's remained a fan-favourite Pokémon card since.

On a completely different end of the spectrum, the Surfing Pikachu card from the X/Y: Evolutions set became popular not because of its skillset or competitive prowess but because, well, it’s a round Pikachu on a surfboard.

There's something so pleasing about the nostalgic art on this Pokémon card that people just seemed to enjoy adding it to their collection - and looking at Pikachu’s happy little face, who wouldn’t?


3. Charizard GX (Rainbow Rare/Full Art)

A colourful outing for one of the greatest Pokémon cards

Charizard has been one of the best Pokémon cards since the game first released - its rainbow-coloured variant makes it even more attractive for players.

With the introduction of Sun & Moon came a different type of rarity of Pokémon cards. Not only did you now have to hunt for the Pokémon you wanted, but also the Full Art and Rainbow Rare prints of it. The Rainbow Rare cards glimmer in beautiful rainbow colours that are just completely irresistible for collectors and players alike.


4. Lysandre’s Trump Card

A Pokémon card so powerful it was banned

Lysandre’s Trump Card was banned from official tournaments, making it one of the most infamous Pokémon cards out there.

If you ever played Pokémon X and Y video games on 3DS, you might recognise this familiar and not-so-friendly face. Although it wouldn’t be fair to say Lysandre’s Trump Card is one of the most popular Pokémon cards, it definitely is one of the most well-known - infamous, almost.

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Lysandre’s Trump Card was banned from competitive Pokémon TCG play for being overpowered; with the ability to make the whole game a clean slate for everyone involved by shuffling all cards from their discard pile back into their deck, is it any wonder?


5. Pikachu (Full Art/Radiant Collection)

An adorable and artistic showcase for the fan-favourite Pokémon

What's better than one Pikachu on your Pokémon card? A whole bunch of Pikachu on your Pokémon card!

Something that always looked beautiful in a TCG collector’s folder are the Radiant Collection’s Full Art cards. These Pokémon cards were deliberately designed to have a different look from other cards, portraying Pokémon in a more cute and beautiful manner, instead of aiming to appear cool or strong. This made the collection popular among people who enjoyed the beauty contests within the Pokémon series of video games.


6. Tapu Lele GX (Full Art)

A Pokémon card with a Wonder-ful ability

Tapu Lele GX's Wonder Tag ability has helped it become a fixture in many Pokémon decks since Sun & Moon: Guardians Rising released in 2017.

Tapu Lele caused quite a stir in the Pokémon TCG competitive scene when it arrived as part of the Sun & Moon: Guardians Rising expansion, making an appearance in a large number of competitive decks mostly thanks to its ability Wonder Tag. Allowing players to pull supporter cards from their deck and use them immediately, it tilted whole games in its favour - and because of this Tapu Lele became a highly popular, fairly pricey Pokémon card.


7. Mewtwo and Mew (Tag Team GX/Full Art)

Two legendary Pokémon meet on a legendary Pokémon card

Mewtwo and Mew are two of the most iconic and powerful Pokémon of all time, so it's little surprise both of them together resulted in one of the best Pokémon cards.

The Tag Team GX cards from the Sun & Moon: Team Up set feature famous duos of all varieties, from fairy magic duo Sylveon and Gardevoir to the unlikely water pairing of Wailord and Magikarp. But no duo will ever be as well-known, popular or well-matched as the Mewtwo and Mew Tag Team GX card.

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Featuring two of the most famous legendary Pokémon in the entire Pokémon series, this Pokémon card offers powerful psychic moves right off the bat and naturally attracts a lot of well-deserved attention.


8. N

Get a hand from the anti-hero's supporter card

N is one of the best supporter Pokémon cards in the TCG.

Similar to Lysandre's Trump Card, N is a well-known supporter card. An anti-hero featured within the Pokémon Black and White video games released on the Nintendo DS, like many of the very best Pokémon cards his card became popular for competitive reasons.

As with many supporter cards, he allows players to shuffle an unwanted hand back into their deck and draw as many cards as prize cards remaining on the table. This means that N favours the underdog, as the further from winning you are, the more cards end up in your hand. Because of this, N helped win many games for players even when the odds were stacked against them.


9. Ancient Mew (Promo Card)

A truly iconic Pokémon card for a truly iconic Pokémon

Ancient Mew can't be used in the game due to its indecipherable text, but that hasn't stopped it becoming one of the most iconic Pokémon cards ever made.

Here we have a true gem for Pokémon card collectors everywhere, but something you’ve probably seen before if you’ve been a Pokémon fan for long enough. Ancient Mew is a promotional Pokémon card that was handed out in the year 2000 for the cinematic release of the Pokémon 2000 movie and has since been unavailable for purchase.

The card has been banned from competitive play and the text featured on it is in an unreadable ancient language, so it’s purely a collector’s piece. The pure mystery, nostalgia and the infamy from being banned makes the Ancient Mew card one of the most iconic Pokémon cards ever released.


10. Lucario and Melmetal (Tag Team GX)

An unlikely pairing on one of the greatest Pokémon cards

Lucario - the Aura Pokémon that's starred in several movies and spin-off games - might seem a strange combination with steel-type Melmetal, but this Pokémon card is a solid pick for your next deck.

It's always fun to see one of Pokémon's best visual designs with one of its worst, and Lucario teamed up with Melmetal is a perfect example of that amusing disconnect. Still, it's an excellent recent card with a very good defence ability in Full Metal Wall GX, to the point where it's one of those Pokémon cards you could pratically build a deck around. Or just imagine the bizarre buddy comedy between Nutblob and the Kung-Fu Fox, it's up to you.


11. Charizard (Holographic)

Everyone's favourite Pokémon card

The greatest Pokémon card of all time? Over 20 years after it first appeared, Charizard remains one of the most popular Pokémon cards in the TCG.

The Holy Grail of every childhood collector’s folder, the original shiny Charizard granted many children bragging rights back in the ‘90s. The original card was tough to find but meant as much to people as a Rainbow Rare or a GX does today.

Thanks to nostalgia playing a huge factor, the holographic Charizard card is still in demand and has been reprinted a number of times, making this one of the most popular and best Pokémon cards of all time.

About the Author

Mia Honey avatar

Mia Honey

Contributor

Mia has been a freelance writer for over three years, contributing video game reviews and buyer's guides for Jelly Deals and Official PlayStation Magazine. She turned her hand to tabletop games after discovering some video games translate amazingly well to cardboard, such as Resident Evil 2 and the Pokemon Trading Card Game.

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