Hiya, I’m Hyla! In this Pokemon TCGO Beginner’s Guide, we’ll be going over an introduction to the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online (PTCGO) client.
The rules of the game are handled well by the in-game tutorial. So instead, we’ll be focusing on the client’s features and typical player progression. This will help you have fun and build up your collection.
When you start the game, you’re given some starter decks, but the cards you get aren’t very good. Use in-game currency (Trainer Tokens) to buy booster packs and premade Theme Decks. You earn currency by completing Daily Quests and winning games in the Versus Ladder.
Most resources earned are bound to your account, but Tournaments reward you with tradeable packs. Use those packs to trade with other players for specific cards you want.
During this Pokemon TCGO Beginner’s Guide, we’ll go over the different modes and features of the client.
When you first boot up the game, you’ll head into a tutorial that teaches you how to play the game. By completing the tutorial, you earn coins, a booster pack, and a random Pokémon GX. It’s worth completing, even if you already know the rules.
To open your booster pack, you’ll have to head to your collection. The pack will look something like this:
The 0 | 1 on the bottom tells you how many tradeable and trade-locked packs you have. Since this pack is locked, go ahead and open it!
After the tutorial, you’ll head to the Trainer Challenge.
The first time the Trainer Challenge loads up, it’ll look like this:
The top is the difficulty selection. You start in Gold, but there are two other levels: Platinum and City Championship. Each level works the same way, but the opponent’s decks get better as you go. There’s no penalty to losing, though, so don’t worry too much about it!
The opponents each have four stars under their names. For each win with a different deck you get a star. You earn a standard-legal booster pack when you get to four stars.
But the rewards don’t stop there. You earn a bonus pack when you beat twelve different trainers with the same theme deck. For example, the Rillaboom Theme Deck gives you one pack of Sword & Shield because it came out alongside the Sword & Shield set.
Completely clearing a level of the Trainer Challenge gives you a few more packs, too. Between the Stars, Theme Decks, and Completion rewards, you’ll earn over 40 packs from the Trainer Challenge, so don’t neglect it!
Moving on, you’ll see three decks at the bottom of your screen. These are your starter decks. Unfortunately, these decks suck and are not suitable for play outside of the Trainer Challenge.
Note: The game takes you here automatically. You can get back here later by clicking the Play Button on the top left of the screen.
Entering the Trainer Challenge for the first time gives you your first Daily Quest. Complete it by fighting against Zach in the Trainer Challenge. You gain a handful of coins and also earn some experience points.
Experience points are broken down by type:
By gaining experience points, you’ll earn matching coins, sleeves, and deck boxes as you level up. Here’s what you’ll get for completing Grass quests:
Additionally, when you reach Level 16, the Daily Quests get more difficult and offer greater rewards. Most notably, a Level 16+ player with the Knockout challenge can earn tradeable packs! Apart from Tournaments, this is the only way to earn tradeable packs in-game.
You only ever get one Daily Quest each day, but as you level up, you’ll be able to pick between multiple different quests each day. Additionally, you’ll unlock the ability to store up to three quests at the same time.
Sometimes, you’ll be able to get multiple quests for the same Type on back-to-back days, allowing you to complete both at the same time. This is great if you don’t have a lot of free time or don’t like playing with decks of certain Types very often.
After completing your first quest in the Trainer Challenge, you’ll want to head into Versus Mode.
When you first enter Versus Mode, you’ll get a copy of the Mental Might theme deck. This deck is better than the other three starter decks, but still not anything to write home about. It’s the best option available for new players, though, so go ahead and queue up!
Like in the Trainer Challenge, there is no penalty to losing, and there is no limit to how many games you can play each day. The game’s matchmaking system will adjust, and you’ll quickly end up fighting other players using decks of similar strength.
Versus Mode Formats
To have the best chance of winning, make sure you’re playing in Theme Mode.
You can only use pre-made decks in this format, leveling the playing field. Let’s take a look at the other three modes.
In Standard, you can only use cards that have been recently released. The Standard format rotates each August, and typically removes cards that are older than two years old. It appeals to most new players looking to move away from Theme Format.
Expanded lets you use any card released in or after Black & White, with the exception of a few banned cards. Unlike Standard, Expanded doesn’t rotate. This mode appeals to veteran players with large collections.
Legacy contains only the HeartGold & SoulSilver and Black & White sets. This is the only format where you can competitively use cards from the HeartGold & SoulSilver sets. The Pokémon in this format deal less damage and have less HP. It appeals to players who want to relive the older days of the TCG.
Regardless of what format you play, Versus Mode is where you’ll spend the majority of your time playing the game. Naturally, this is also where you’ll get the most rewards.
Versus Mode Rewards
The game has daily rewards for the first 11 wins, and a bonus 5 coins for each win after that. Based on your amount of free time and desire to play, aim for 4, 7, or 11 wins.
If you finish your daily rewards each day and want to play more, I suggest heading back to the Trainer Challenge to work on unlocking those reward packs. The Mystery Boxes can contain coins, tournament tickets, or even booster packs.
In addition to the daily rewards, there’s a set of rewards that refreshes every three weeks.
The rewards contain coins, tournament tickets, booster packs, specific cards, and chests. Each chest contains a few coins and a random card. About two-in-three of these ladders focus on Standard legal cards. The rest focus on Expanded.
Points on this ladder are earned as follows:
- Winning – 10 points
- Win streak – 5 bonus points per win
- Upset Victory – 5 bonus points. This occurs when the internal matchmaking system believes you’re a lower rank than the opponent.
- Loss – 1 point for each Prize Card taken.
The win streak bonus caps at a total of 30 points per match.
Ultimately, if you focus on the daily rewards, the ladder rewards will naturally come to you. With 21 days per track, and a cap of 2000 points, a player winning 10 games each day is guaranteed to hit the maximum. Thanks to win streak bonuses, players around 7 wins per day also won’t find too much trouble completing the track.
Always remember that you’re playing a game and should be having fun with it. If you’re stressing about earning daily rewards or capping out the ladder, it’s time to take a step back. If you’re not having fun, it isn’t worth it!
The ladder isn’t anything to worry about. The final reward, the full-art trainer, tends to be weak. Many other rewards are just trade-locked packs. You’ll earn plenty of those regardless of how you play the game!
As a new player, you’ll want to stick with Mental Might until you get your first 500 coins. Then, head to the in-game shop.
Get to the shop by clicking on the cart icon.
Here, you can spend the coins collected from Daily Quests and Versus Mode. The shop includes:
- In-game deck boxes and sleeves for 100/300 coins each, featuring Charmander, Squirtle, or Bulbasaur.
- Pikachu Themed Avatar Collection Boxes for 55 coins. They let you customize the way your in-game character looks.
- Booster Packs for 200 coins.
- Theme Decks for 500 coins.
Deck boxes, sleeves, and avatar items don’t have any affect on the game itself. So, we’ll only be covering theme decks and booster packs in this guide.
Many theme decks contain cards useful in other formats, making them the best value. New players should start by trying to buy one theme deck of each type. This allows them to complete any Daily Quest that pops up.
Best Theme Decks for Quests
At the time of writing, the best theme decks are each type are as follows:
|Quest Type||Theme Deck|
|Grass||Rillaboom Theme Deck|
|Fire||Relentless Flame (Charizard)*|
|Water||Unseen Depths (Kyogre)|
|Lightning||Storm Caller (Raikou)|
|Psychic||Laser Focus (Necrozma)**|
|Fighting||Towering Heights (Groudon)|
|Steel||Zamazenta Theme Deck|
|Fairy||Resilient Life (Xerneas)***|
|Darkness||Destruction Fang (Hydreigon)|
|Dragon||Soaring Storm (Dragonite)|
* There is also a new Charizard Theme Deck that recently came out. Relentless Flame is stronger, but the Charizard Theme Deck has more cards that are useful in other formats.
** Laser Focus contains only Malamar as a Psychic-Type Evolution. For Evolution challenges, use Relentless Flame, which has both Nidorina and Nidoqueen.
***Resilient Life is much worse than every other deck on this list. If you’re looking to be competitive, avoid Fairy-Type Quests whenever possible.
Best Theme Decks Overall
Outside of Daily Quests, I highly recommend using Soaring Storm, Relentless Flame, or Unseen Depths.
- Soaring Storm is the best theme deck. It has no bad matchups, but is a bit harder to play than other decks.
- Relentless Flame, by contrast, is almost as powerful and much easier to play. It is the most popular theme deck on the ladder.
- Unseen Depths is powerful on its own, but also hits Relentless Flame for Weakness. Having a great matchup against the most popular deck makes it a great choice.
- In contrast, the Rillaboom Theme Deck is weak to Relentless Flame. Apart from this, it is also a rather powerful deck.
Besides buying the decks in-game, you can also buy the physical decks on Amazon. Each of them comes with a code, which redeems for the copy of the same deck in the Pokemon TCGO client.
These theme decks should cover all of your needs for competitive Theme Format games. However, look through the other theme decks for cards you might want to use in other formats. For example, the Froakie theme deck comes with Crushing Hammer, a card that sees a lot of play in the Standard format.
You can find more information about the best Pokemon Theme decks here.
Reminder: You get a booster pack by winning with a Theme Deck’s twelve times in the Trainer Challenge. Because of this, it is usually a good idea to buy new theme decks each time a new set releases. You’ll get a couple of useful Trainer cards for your collection and a pack!
When you don’t need any more theme decks, you have to decide how you want to spend the coins you are getting. There are three methods, so pick whichever makes the most sense to you.
Open the pack that contains the most useful Uncommon rarity cards. A pack like Sword & Shield Base Set contains a bunch of useful cards you won’t find in theme decks like Quick Ball, Rare Candy, and Air Balloon.
This maximizes the chance that opening a locked pack gives you something of value for the 200 coins.
Multiple Rare Cards
Open a pack that contains multiple rare cards you need for a deck. Each set tends to print support for a few specific decks at a time.
For example, Darkness Ablaze contains Eternatus V, Eternatus VMAX, Crobat V, Galarian Slowbro V, and more that all go together in one deck. If you’re sure you want to play with Eternatus, the number of different cards you need offsets the lower chance of pulling a specific one.
Save Your Tokens
Save your tokens for the next set release. If you already have a deck built, and are happy with it, you may not find yourself with a reason to open packs at all. In that case, just sit on your tokens until the next set comes out. When it does, you’ll be able to buy a bunch of packs at once and start testing out fresh new decks!
Note that you can only have a maximum of 25,000 coins at once, so go ahead and buy a few packs of anything you want if you happen to get that high.
As you play games in Versus mode, you’ll get Tournament Tickets, which are located to the right of your coins.
You can use these tickets to enter an 8-player, single-elimination tournament. If you’re playing with theme decks, you’ll earn one pack per win. If you play using Standard or Expanded decks, the rewards are doubled, but so is the entry fee.
The great thing about Tournaments is that the packs you get here are tradeable! Once you’re comfortable with your favorite Theme Deck, start entering tournaments and use the rewards to build the decks you want.
Trading is a topic that deserves its own guide, but we’ll go over the basics here. You can view public trades to try finding cards you want.
On the other hand, you can spend a few coins to make your own custom offer:
Keep in mind that this section is filled with real players, so you need to make reasonable offers if you want your trades to go through. It is most cost efficient to pick the 8 hour option, as you can always relist the trade if it fails.
When looking at public trades or making your own, I highly suggest using ptcgoprices.com to look up the value of the cards you’re trying to trade for. A bot compiles this information in real time by scanning the game for trades.
The above sections covered most of what you need to know to get started. However, we’ll briefly go over the other screens in the game here.
The Deck Manager, as the name implies, lets you create your own decks.
You won’t spend too much time here until you’ve been playing long enough to win Events and earn resources that you trade for specific cards.
In addition to the formats discussed earlier, there is also Unlimited. This mode has no restrictions on the cards you can include, but you can only play it with with friends.
Note: Don’t use the Deck Wizard. It does not make good decks.
To the right of the shop, there’s a present icon that takes you to the code redemption screen.
Physical TCG products come with code cards that give you matching items in-game. There are no in-app purchases, so these code cards are the only external source of tradeable packs.
If you want codes, but don’t want to buy physical cards, there are several online retailers that sell codes. Depending on the set, these typically range from $0.25-$0.50 per code.
If you’ll buy your codes at PoTownStore, you can use the code CGBASE, which will get you a 5% discount on your order.
On the Avatar screen, you can customize the way your character looks.
This doesn’t affect the game play at all, but you can use this option to express yourself.
If you ever need to check your Daily Quest status, this is the screen to do it. Here you can also switch one of your daily quests with another one.
You can view stats like how much damage you’ve dealt, how many cards you own, and which sets you’ve completed.
You can add friends from the community hub on the far right of the screen.
This makes it easy to send private trade offers and send challenge requests with people you know.
This is the end of the Pokemon TCGO Beginner’s Guide. It should cover everything you need to know to get started playing PTCGO! The next steps are up to you! Whether you copy competitive decks, build your own, or stay in Theme Mode – the choice is yours!
Whatever the case, I hope you’ll enjoy your time with the game. Get out there and take some prizes!
Here are some more Pokemon articles that you might enjoy: