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Pokémon TCG’s Scarlet & Violet expansion isn’t groundbreaking, but it does have some great Paldean newbies - hands-on preview

The long and Klawf of it.

After the release of the Pokémon Scarlet & Violet video games last year, the Pokémon Trading Card Game is catching up to the newest generation with its latest expansion. Pokémon TCG: Scarlet & Violet is the next big upcoming set and will introduce cards based on Pokémon from the Paldea region - in which the Scarlet & Violet video games take place - to the trading card game for the first time.

Besides the new Pokémon - and a few oldies - the Scarlet & Violet expansion includes a collection of fresh supporter, item and stadium cards, alongside cards in the newly created ‘tool’ category. Pokémon ex cards are also returning as a major gameplay mechanic in the trading card game, the first time since the EX Ruby & Sapphire expansion released way back in 2003.

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On top of all this, Tera Pokémon ex cards - inspired by the terastalised evolutions from the Scarlet & Violet video games - are making their debut in the Pokémon TCG Scarlet & Violet expansion, providing players with an even more powered-up version of the already formidable Pokémon ex cards. Collectors can get their hands on both ’illustration rare’ and ‘special illustration rare’ Pokémon cards in this expansion, which feature alternative artwork versions of other cards found in the set.

Any of the three starter Pokémon exclusive to the Paldea region will see players taking advantage of each of their unique identities.

Though the Pokémon TCG Scarlet & Violet expansion is set to officially release on March 31st, players have been able to get their hands on cards earlier by competing in friendly tournaments at Play Pokémon stores using a series of pre-built decks. These pre-built decks were available to demo at an event held earlier this week, with each box containing one ready-made deck as well as a few booster packs and some dice.

Pokémon TCG: Scarlet & Violet expansion Vivillion card line
The Vivillon line is focused around the adaptive evolution ability, which enables its Pokémon to evolve sooner than usual.

Each of the pre-built decks are fashioned around a handful of Pokémon, all of which can be found in the Scarlet & Violet expansion. An example pre-built deck includes a combination of Tatsugiri and Dondozo, which enables players to gain energy through Tatsugiri’s Mise en Place move and deal out 50 damage for each Tatsugiri in the discard pile with Dondozo. Another pre-built deck contains Scatterbug and Spewpa, both of which have the adaptive evolution ability - allowing them to evolve immediately, as long as players have the required cards, rather than having to wait until the next round.

Two of the pre-built decks can be found in the Pokémon TCG: Scarlet & Violet - Build & Battle Stadium Set, which will be available for wider retail release alongside the aforementioned booster decks. Another Pokémon TCG: Scarlet & Violet release set to launch on March 31st is the Elite Trainer Box - which comes in two varieties, each based on one of the main legendaries from the Paldea region: Koraidon and Miraidon. Players will get a rare illustrated version of either legendary in the Elite Trainer Box, alongside several booster packs, energy cards, sleeves, coins, damage tokens and dice. An even fancier version of the Elite Trainer Box containing even more booster packs will be released in Pokémon Centres on the same day.

Pokémon TCG: Scarlet & Violet expansion rare illustrated cards.
Rare illustrated cards feature alternate artwork versions of other Pokémon cards.

Dicebreaker was provided with both an Elite Trainer Box and a Build & Battle box for the Pokémon TCG: Scarlet & Violet expansion by The Pokémon Company. After opening up the many booster packs found within, a scant few rare Pokémon cards were found - including a Great Tusk ex card - as well as several more holo cards. Every booster deck in the Pokémon TCG Scarlet & Violet expansion will contain at least one holo and two reverse holo cards.

Pokémon ex cards are incredibly useful to pair alongside moves that would otherwise damage benched allied Pokémon, such as Earthquake.

A complete line of any of the three starter Pokémon exclusive to the Paldea region - Quaxley, Fuecoco and Sprigatitto - will see players taking advantage of each of their strengths built around their unique identities as magician (Meowscarada), singer (Skeledirge) and dancer (Quaquaval) Pokémon in their final evolutions. Other notable inclusions from the Pokémon Scarlet & Violet video games include Wiglett, Fidough, Greavard, Armarouge, Scovillain, Cetitan, Klawf, Lechonk, Maushold, Mabosstiff and Revavroom.

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The handbook featured with the Elite Trainer Box gives a great overview of a few of the potentially formidable decks players can construct with the newly added Paldean Pokémon. Examples include the aforementioned Dondozo and Tatsugiri deck, as well as a deck of Koraidon and Revaroom cards that allows players to put fighting energy cards into the discard pile, before moving them all onto a basic Pokémon. The Paldean Pokémon will be joined by a collection of Pokémon found in various other regions, from Kanto’s Slowpoke to Hoen’s Torkoal to Klaos’ Florges.

Some of these non-Pladean exclusive Pokémon have ex versions which, rather than being basic Pokémon like Pokémon EX cards, can be Pokémon of any evolutionary stage. As with Pokémon EX cards, Pokémon ex cards allow opponents to draw two prize cards whenever they’re defeated - providing a cost to utilising their impressive power. On top of this, the two Tera Pokémon ex cards introduced in this expansion - Arcanine ex Tera and Gyarados ex Tera - cannot be damaged by attacks from either an opponent or ally Pokémon whilst on the bench. Invincible benched Pokémon are incredibly useful to pair alongside moves that would otherwise damage benched allied Pokémon, such as Earthquake.

Pokémon TCG: Scarlet & Violet expansion Tatsugiri and Dondozo cards
Tatsugiri and Dondozo make for a very powerful combination as their abilities highly compliment one another.

Many of these Pokémon ex cards play into the overall gameplay theme found within the Pokémon TCG: Scarlet & Violet expansion of energy manipulation and abilities. Several Pokémon cards found in the upcoming expansion - not just the ex kind - enable players to obtain, move and expel energy cards to gain an advantage. These kinds of strategies work well when powering up a Pokémon on the bench, before swapping it with the one currently assisting it from the active slot.

There will be a chunk of Paldean Pokémon making their debut - bringing fresh deck-crafting opportunities and winning strategies.

The new supporters and items featured in the Scarlet & Violet are focused around either providing card draw - such as Professor’s Research and Nemona - or finding specific types of cards, like Jacq and Arven. Both of these supporter and item cards can speed players along to drawing those crucial cards needed to make their benched/active Pokémon combinations work.

Pokémon TCG: Scarlet & Violet expansion legendary cards.
Koraidon and Miraidon are the two main legendary Pokémon found in the latest Pokémon TCG set.

Meanwhile, the newly added ‘tool’ category of cards remain attached to the Pokémon they’re given to, enabling them to have more offensive, defensive or strategic potential. Separating tools from the item category also means that specific cards that directly affect items - such as supporter cards that enable players to search for them or abilities that prevent players from using them - no longer apply to tools, allowing players to create more specific strategies around using them and/or countering them.

Pokémon TCG: Scarlet & Violet expansion doesn’t add a whole lot of new gameplay mechanics to the trading card game, with Pokémon ex cards being reintroduced from a previous release and existing item cards getting listed as tools. However, there will be a chunk of Paldean Pokémon making their debut - bringing fresh deck-crafting opportunities, winning strategies and collectible cards with them. Which, when it comes to the Pokémon TCG, is easily more exciting than any gameplay addition.

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Alex Meehan avatar
Alex Meehan: After writing for Kotaku UK, Waypoint and Official Xbox Magazine, Alex became a member of the Dicebreaker editorial family. Having been producing news, features, previews and opinion pieces for Dicebreaker for the past three years, Alex has had plenty of opportunity to indulge in her love of meaty strategy board games and gothic RPGS. Besides writing, Alex appears in Dicebreaker’s D&D actual play series Storybreakers and haunts the occasional stream on the Dicebreaker YouTube channel.
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