The Most Stunning Pokémon TCG Scarlet & Violet Cards
The arrival of the new era of Scarlet & Violet Pokémon TCG cards is now only four weeks away. As worldwide players prepare themselves for the big shift from the V cards to the rebirth of “ex,” in Japan the base sets have already been out for over a month, and now the follow-up set, Triple Beat, is revealing some astonishingly gorgeous cards. So we’re focusing on what’s important: which ones are the most desirable.
For that, read: prettiest. With none of the cards out until March 31, and potentially some of them likely to not reach non-Japanese shores until at least June, we’re not worrying about value yet. (Although the more elaborate and beautifully designed the card, the costlier it tends to be, so they often go hand in hand.) We’re also not concerning ourselves with playability, since we’re a fair way off fathoming the forthcoming metas for the table-top game. Nope, today we’re worrying about which ones feature the loveliest art, and as such, which we’re most desperate to pull from a foil pack in the next few months.
With Scarlet & Violet’s base set, we’re not going to be seeing the same divided release that appeared in Japan. Over there, packs were released as either Scarlet or Violet, with cards unique to each split set. Thankfully, there’s none of that fuss for the international release, with everything together, although most of what’s to be included has yet to be revealed. Playing their collectible cards close to their chest, The Pokémon Company International (TPCi) has shown us only those earliest promos, and just five more cards since.
We can anticipate that most of the cards will be those in Japan’s SV base set releases, however traditionally a fair few get held back for later international sets, with little discernible rhyme or reason. There’s also more confusion this time, with the SV base set release coming to us a full month later than it usually would, and rumors of a special re-release of the first 151 Kanto cards coming in the summer. That’d scupper a release to match Japan’s Triple Beat, unless it’s going to be a super-early special set situation, like last year’s release of Pokémon Go’s set overlapping Chilling Reign and Evolving Skies. Shrug!
All this speculation aside, let’s get into what really matters: Our favorite cards among the first two Scarlet & Violet Japanese sets (albeit with some of Triple Beat’s still to be revealed next week).
Ralts, Kirlia, Gardevoir
Let’s start off with my personal favorite three. That’s largely because I collect all of these Pokémon, and was absolutely delighted on learning that the new set was to feature a tryptic of the Ralts to Kirlia to Gardevoir evolution.
All three are by one of 2022's new artists, the extraordinary Jiro Sasumo. He designed one of Crown Zenith’s most sought-after cards, the Galarian Gallery Leafeon, and has totally delivered again.
We know for sure that the Gardevoir card is coming to the international edition of the SV base set, as it was confirmed only this week. So surely the other two are inevitable?
One of the best things we’ve seen in Pokémon TCG in recent years is a far greater range of art styles appearing on cards. This crowned Gyarados ex is such a great example, despite coming from one of the most frequently used artist groups, 5ban Graphics—a team that has produced almost 1,500 cards since the Black & White era.
I love the combination of a stained-glass effect, with so many different textures. Unfortunately, great textures are something that often get lost in translation by the time cards are released outside of Japan, so this might not look nearly so good by the time we can pull it. But here’s hoping!
Great Tusk ex
Another wonderful more recent trend in the franchise is this meticulously detailed watercolor-ish style, and we are very here for it. It lends such a subtlety that’s ironically causes cards to stand out amongst the far larger, bolder designs cards more usually receive.
Pani Kobayashi’s distinct style has appeared sporadically for a few years, but until more recently was too often hidden in the smaller images on standard cards. The gorgeous work was finally allowed to shine with Crown Zenith’s enormously collectible Darkrai VSTAR, and now offers one of the stand-out cards of Japan’s Scarlet ex set.
Right? Right? These aren’t the Pokémon cards your great-grandfather used to collect during the war, are they? This outrageously beautiful Penny secret rare is absolutely a chase card for me, should it come out as part of this month’s initial release.
It also stands out for another reason. As Kotaku recently reported, Pokémon TCG has an unpleasant issue in Japan with its so-called waifu cards. Female characters, no matter how young, can be far too suggestively posed, and inevitably become ludicrously priced on the resale market. The initial Scarlet and Violet ex sets are rife with exactly this, making this Penny card stand out all the more. It’s perfect, it captures her character from the game, and hopefully no one’s going to be printing it on a life-size pillow.
Has there ever been less of a Pokémon on a card before? Kudos to TCG stalwart, Miki Tanaka (the artist responsible for Crown Zenith’s unbeatable Ditto/Numel), for such a brilliantly silly card depicting the equally silly pocket monster.
I’ve mostly been picking the more subtle cards until now, but this Toedscool by Akira Komayama gets included for exactly the opposite reason. It’s so fantastically loud!
I love the palette, matching Toedscool’s ridiculous colors, depicting it in a world where trees are blue and bushes are pink. That’s where this ridiculous monster belongs.
Well take that, Tarountula. Already beaten into second place for Least Pokémon On A Card by Toshinao Aoki’s Slowpoke.
Aoki is a fascinating artist for the TCG. He’s been designing cards since the early days, first appearing in Neo Revelation in 2000. He’s the artist behind the legendary Surfing and Flying Pikachu! And yet despite this, in the last 23 years has only created 47 cards. Thankfully, he’s recently become a more regular fixture, creating Silver Tempest’s amazing Unown V full-art, and Crown Zenith’s Roxanne.
This Slowpoke, however, is my favorite he’s ever done.
These are so much better than you were expecting, aren’t they? And how wonderful to see PTCG regular, Tomokazu Komiya, letting it rip like this.
While it might take you a fair while to realize, this is a Drowzee card, the dream-eating actual monster smirking over the back of that bench, the visitors to the town understandably distressed for their children’s psyches. (Seriously, Drowzee is the worst.)
I’m clearly a sucker for these sunlit images, and I think there’s a danger of this becoming a bit of a cliche for the series if there are too many more of them, but fortunately Teeziro’s Skwovet just sneaks in before that door gets closed.
These are the sorts of cards I want sold as posters (clearly with the blurb removed), because damn this would be just lovely framed and on a wall.
Sprigatito, Fuecoco, Quaxly
We’re into Triple Beat now. And what better to start with than these three outstanding secret rares for the three starters?
Quaxly comes from Souichirou Gunjima, Sprigatito by the prolific Kouki Saitou, and Feucoco is by kantaro, a brand new artist with their first card being Colress’s Experiment for Crown Zenith.
All three are just stunning, but Feucoco wins for pure cuteness.
Is this the other design in danger of happening too often? Possibly, but not yet! Miki Tanaka already appeared above with Tarountula, and nails it again with an even more sparse design for the latest version of Wooper.
It’s a funny card, clearly designed for no other purpose than to get Stadium cards into your hand from your deck, with its silly 10 attack and 60HP. But I’d still want to play it when it looks this daft and lovely.
Yes, MAGIKARP. At last, the greatest of all the Pokémon is getting the full-art card it deserves! Too long this flopping idiot has been restricted to the tiny windows, but now it burst free in the most spectacular style.
30HP everybody. Aw, Magikarp.
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