With the increasing popularity of the online Pokemon TCG, the Pokemon brand continues to surge forward in all media and make competitive play more accessible to anyone who’s ever wanted to try it out. Overall, it’s a great card game. Each trainer has one active Pokemon at a time to battle with and a maximum of five Pokemon ready to go on the bench. Even if you’ve only played the video games, you’ll be able to pick up the TCG mechanics very quickly. And once you do, the trading cards become more than just another collectible piece of cardboard.
Expansions introduce new cards, moves, and regions into the TCG scene. Some of the biggest game-changers were EX, GX, and V cards, including others such as BREAK and Tag Team variants. Taking rare chase cards, total card pool, bulk pricing, and significance into account, here are the best Pokemon TCG expansions.
Updated October 29, 2022, by Doruk Kaptan: With every new generation of Pokemon, new sets, mechanics, and Pokemon get added to the TCG. With Pokemon Scarlet & Violet being less than a month away from release, it’s an exciting time to be a Pokemon fan.
Despite the most recent sets being some of the most sought-after, mainly due to usability and power creep, some sets from history also manage to be iconic and valuable. This can be due to a slew of things, including card art, collection value, rarity, and historical significance. Here are the best of the best.
20/20 Hidden Fates
Hidden Fates is a special set that garnered a lot of attention in recent years as collectors focused on landing many of the various full-art shiny Pokemon cards featured in the set. Like most Pokemon Trading Card Game expansions, the true chase card of the set is a Charizard, with this one being a full art display of his shiny black-scaled form.
Shining Fates is more of a hobby/collector-focused release that doesn’t commit to individual booster pack sales but instead shoots for other types of products for consumers to get their hands on.
19/20 Brilliant Stars
Brilliant Stars is a recent set, but it does have a solid case to belong on this list. In addition to a new mechanic and Pokemon card type in VSTAR, the set also includes incredible full-art trainer cards displaying some of the series’ most iconic trainers alongside their most notable Pokemon companions.
When a set can be valuable and interesting to both those who play the card game competitively and those who simply collect rare cards, you have a rather special expansion set on your hands.
18/20 Shining Fates
A set like Shining Fates that includes shiny forms of beloved Pokemon will always have value as it offers something unique. Since this Pokemon TCG expansion set didn’t release via boosters like normal sets, the scarcity and built-in collector value were there from the start.
While this may seem like a flaw, it also happened to be one of the biggest sets during the Pokemon Sword & Shield era, with over 100 shiny Pokemon cards and 30 others that were either V or VMAX, which are chase cards in their own right.
17/20 Team Rocket
Nostalgia is a rather strong presence known to make people look back on things in a much more forgiving and kind way. The classic Team Rocket expansion set for the Pokemon TCG is the exception where nostalgia plays a part, but the cards do actually hold up.
This set showcased Pokemon with ‘Dark’ in their card name, which alluded to the fact that they were owned and trained by the nefarious Team Rocket. Between Dark Charizard, Dark Blastoise, Dark Dragonite, and Dark versions of the original three Eeveelutions, there are plenty of cards to hunt down and collect if the collective nostalgia is that strong for you.
16/20 Neo Genesis
As the years have gone by, it’s clear that the second generation of games (Pokemon Gold & Silver) and the Pokemon from that generation have a large fandom closer to the original 151 of the Kanto region than you might think.
The Neo Genesis expansion (stylistically based on the neo Era in Japan) was the first set for the card game to feature Pokemon native to the Johto region of the second generation. In terms of contributions to the overall legacy of the Pokemon TCG, this set introduced both Dark and Metal types, baby Pokemon, and new Trainer cards called Pokemon Tools. The chase cards of the set include the holo rares of Pichu, Typhlosion, Feraligatr, Meganium, and Lugia.
15/20 Gym Heroes
As one of the more vintage sets, not all Pokemon fans may know the unique way Gym Heroes made classic Pokemon more interesting. The set featured several Pokemon with an owner’s name relating to the Kanto Gym Leaders, making for more flavorful renditions of many favorites to fit certain personalities.
This makes it a spectacular set to open and go through, as each card is exceptionally flavorful, thanks to this added human element. Many cards go for high prices due to their age, but playing with and opening these cards is an absolute joy, even to this day.
14/20 Black & White Plasma Freeze
The Black & White Plasma Freeze set essentially takes after a similar style to classic sets like Gym Heroes, with the main twist being that many Pokemon introduced are owned by villainous members of Team Plasma. This is a slight callback to the old Rocket sets from the first generation of the game, which showcased many evil versions of classic Pokemon.
This came with all sorts of unique passive abilities, and nearly any set in the Plasma series ended up being extremely fun and innovative because of it. It’s distant enough to be quite different from modern cards but is definitely more powerful and usable than the classic original sets of the game.
13/20 Dragon Vault
Dragon Vault is a set that will most likely be valuable to collectors more than anyone else, as it’s an extremely small set with only one type of Pokemon. As the title suggests, that would be the Dragon-type, but the main purpose of this set was to introduce the new Dragon Energy symbol that’s still used in the game today.
This was an especially controversial set, as it brought a huge new element to the game that wasn’t available in most standard packs. It’s an odd piece of history that’ll likely go up in value as time goes on and is even more novel for players who adore the iconic Dragon-type Pokemon it featured from the first few generations of the franchise.
As the first XY Break expansion, XY Breakthrough introduced the BREAK cards. Unlike other upgraded Pokemon card types, BREAK cards require the evolution mechanic to work. Still, by not sacrificing your turn, they provided a much better alternative to Mega Evolution for those wanting to upgrade their base Pokemon.
Understandably, there are only 35 BREAK cards, 6 of which were introduced with Breakthrough. Despite this small pool, the booster packs don’t have a fantastic pull rate compared to some of the others on the list, meaning this set isn’t as recommended for collectors as it is for players.
11/20 Champion’s Path
Leaning much more on the collector’s end of the spectrum of Pokemon TCG sets is Champion’s Path, a recent set that was especially expensive out of the gate. This is because packs of this set weren’t available as standalone products, instead being offered as additional content in packs like the Elite Trainer Box and Pin Collection Sets.
This set has tons of gorgeous V and V-Max cards but also a large number of rainbow foil and shiny cards, such as the elusive Shiny Charizard V card. Many are extremely high-value, while others are just quite powerful, and getting a few of them can be a great addition to any serious Pokemon collector’s binder.
Nostalgia sells. Released during the XY Break series, the expansion was released to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Pokemon franchise and had a hugely refreshing amount of original Pokemon compared to newer sets loving to focus on new species from recent games.
The collector’s box and exclusivity of the booster packs generate appeal for this expansion. However, many of the First Generation cards were taken from the XY series, so for players, the price tag may not have been worth figuring out what to do with that one oversized card from the Generations collections.
9/20 Forbidden Light
Forbidden Light is the sixth expansion released for the Sun & Moon series, but it focuses on the Kalos region Pokemon rather than Alola. However, it does emphasize the Ultra Beasts, something we have seen very little of throughout the entire TCG.
Forbidden Light holds a whopping 26 Pokemon-GX cards out of the total 146 in the set, making it a huge benefit for anyone wanting to get into competitive play. On top of that, it introduces five new Prism Star cards and has some entertaining theme decks for beginners, making this set great for all players.
8/20 Darkness Ablaze
Darkness Ablaze from the Sword & Shield era will likely go down as one of the better sets of the game. Not only are its rare and legendary cards like Eternatus interesting examples of powerful competitive staples, but it features an exceptionally strong number of non-legendary cards that pack huge power to make it all-around powerful.
A great example is the Mad Party group of Pokemon, which were mostly commons and uncommons with an attack that could combo with other Pokemon with the Mad Party attack. Another incredible example is the staple Crobat V, one of the best V cards. Great sets are often touted for their rares, but Darkness Ablaze has valuable cards at every rarity for both players and collectors.
7/20 Primal Clash
Primal Clash brought Kyogre and Groudon to the forefront for the release of Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. The artwork features both Legendary Pokemon’s Primal Reversion forms, featured in the video game as their new Mega Evolutions. The TCG’s Primal cards are classified as Pokemon-EX, like Mega Evolutions.
This one also comes with a large variety of Trainer cards, great for anyone trying to change their play style or create a custom deck. It ended up being a great companion to Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire and an enjoyable set to play overall.
6/20 Sword & Shield Base Set
As the Scarlet & Violet base sets are fast approaching release, it’s a great time to look back and appreciate the set that kicked off the previous generation. These sets included the first V cards and had some of the strongest ones ever released.
While the set isn’t packed with pure power like others, such as Darkness Ablaze, the high end is sky-high. Zacian V, released in this set, is one of the best cards ever printed for the Pokemon TCG. With an incredible ability and a great attack, Zacian dominated the game. The coincidental Steel-type synergy also boosted its usability.
5/20 Black & White Legendary Treasures
The final wave for the Black & White line came out with a bang. Though the cards predate Mega Evolutions, it still boasts 16 possible Pokemon-EX pulls, including those from the Radiant Collection. Comparatively, this set has many holographic cards, making it great for those who like collecting the cards rather than battling. But for those who enjoy battling, the hilarious Trainer Card “Cedric Juniper” is sure to spice up your battles on and offline.
However, this expansion never had any Theme Decks attached to it, making it the second expansion in the Pokemon Trading Card Game’s history. This has made it extremely elusive and one of the more expensive sets to purchase, even though the cards aren’t the rarest in the game.
4/20 X&Y Evolutions
The Pokemon TCG did something very unique and risky with X&Y Evolutions. They completely forewent the newer cards and made a set of complete reprints and retrains of the original era cards. The looks, styling, and art on these cards are very nostalgic, and as discussed, nostalgia sells.
The set did have some new additions with Mega Evolution cards. The original cards were also power crept to death and thus were retrained and brought up to speed. Electrode from this set saw some competitive play, but this is mostly a collector’s set.
Speaking of collection pieces, Skyridge is one of the most valuable sets of all time, especially when you look at the rarest of the set. This was a one-print run, meaning the cards are extremely rare, instantly bumping up their value.
Skyridge is also a rather old set, being out of print for almost 20 years. The cards also boost this set’s popularity, with amazing-looking cards like Charizard and Ho-Oh. If any set becomes iconic due to many factors, it’s Skyridge.
2/20 X&Y Roaring Skies
Roaring Skies is one of those sets that makes you question if any set will live up to it. It packed so much power, and due to its age and high-rarity cards, it’s also quite valuable nowadays. The crown jewel of this set is, without a doubt, Shaymin-EX.
Shaymin-EX was an incredible power card with high splashability on any deck. So much so that almost any deck played it at the time. Other amazing cards in this set include Mega Rayquaza, Wally, VS Seeker, Trainer’s Mail, and Ultra Ball. A set with incredible cards both in terms of strength and in terms of numbers.
1/20 Base Set
Don’t let the name confuse you; Base Set is the English title for the TCG’s first-ever expansion set.
While newer sets are shinier, cooler, better produced, and definitely stronger, the set that started it all can’t be competed with. The base set of the Pokemon TCG had an incredible impact on the landscape of TCGs as a whole. It is one of the most valuable base sets of any TCG, and for a good reason.
The set had iconic chase cards like Mewtwo, Alakazam, and of course, Charizard. This set is so iconic and rare that a single card can sell for unbelievable amounts as a collection piece. While not the most flashy, the base set is the most impactful, without a doubt, and it deserves the respect it gets.