Pokemon TCG Online has officially shut down and been replaced by Pokemon TCG Live. You can download Pokemon TCG Live on IOS, Android, PC and Mac. While I am saddened by the end of an era, I am hopeful for the game’s future. While I have a decent win rate on both clients, keep in mind that I am speaking from an entirely casual perspective. If you are looking to me for competitive advice, I am afraid I won’t be very helpful.
Pokemon TCG Live is the best place to go if you want to learn how to play the Pokemon TCG. It’s free, it’s convenient, and the tutorial is fantastic. Players get access to decent starter decks, and they can earn more through gameplay. I wish they had trainer challenges where players could face off against AI for rewards as they had in PTCGO, but playing against real people has been great. There will be an awkward adjustment phase as the game tries to find your skill level, but this process felt quick compared to other card games I’ve tried. I only play ranked, so I can’t speak on matchmaking for casual.
I’ve been playing on the IOS app since the start of the beta, and it was rough. The game was so unplayable in the beginning that I almost gave up. Matches took too long, animations would lose frames, and there were a few noticeable bugs that made the experience terrible. There has been a bit of polish since, and I’ve been enjoying myself a lot more. There is still room for improvement, but at least on IOS, the experience is solid. I can’t speak on the experience for Android or PC.
While I am content with the state of Live, some changes will take some getting used to. I don’t like that they flipped the orientation of the gameboard. I believe this was done to accommodate for mobile devices, but it is awkward on the iPad. I’ve gotten used to it, but I have to lock the iPad so it doesn’t randomly rotate and force me into a smaller aspect ratio. I also miss tournaments and access to the theme deck format. I only played the theme decked format in PTCGO because it was the easiest way to get into the game, and I always liked trying the different starter decks. The grind for Live also seems a bit steeper than it was in PTCGO. While the grind is not as bad as in MTGA, it is noticeable. Finally, there is no more trading. I didn’t do any trading in PTCGO because I enjoyed opening my packs, but it is something to be aware of. Instead of trading packs for singles, you buy them through a dust system that works like any other CCG. I don’t buy enough cards to know how well the dust system works compared to the old way, I just know that it will be a while for me to get a meta deck.
As a casual in the space, I love Pokemon TCG Live. I love that I can play standard right at the start, I love that I can play on my phone, and love that I can play people that are around my skill level. I get stomped by people who spend money on this game on occasion, but I’ve also had some of the most intense and fun games in between. I will eventually build a meta deck, but I have been enjoying the game without one.
The best part about collecting Pokemon are the redeemable code cards you get from buying physical packs. I always feel weird throwing money into a game for digital assets that might not exist in a few years. I love that I can go to my LGS, buy a few packs, enjoy them in my collection, and then redeem them online. More card games should do this to incentivize players to spend money in the space. It bothers me that if I buy a booster box of MTG, I also have to buy it in MTGA just to play standard. Unfortunately, all my money is going into Digimon, but I like having the option.
What I love most about Pokemon TCG Live is how free-to-play-friendly compared to the other online TCGs. I know I’ve mentioned a grind, but it isn’t bad. I am speaking as a casual player who enjoys the game, but the grind doesn’t feel like work. I am sure if you do buy cards and spend money, the grind will be a lot easier, but as a free-to-play player, I have no complaints. You can unlock the battle pass for 600 gems, which you can easily earn in a few days. Unlocking the battle pass gives you access to cosmetics, packs, and more gems. I play casually and complete a reward track every single day. I’ve already decent collection without spending any money, and I’ve only been playing the starter deck. Any excess gems can be spent on decent bundles or themed decks to further expand your collection. It’s a great system.
If you are looking to get into the hobby, now is a great time to join. Pokemon TCG Live is officially out of Beta, so you won’t have to experience the rough stages I had to go through. The client runs well enough (at least on IOS), there is a healthy population of players, and Paldea Evolved is going to be a lot of fun to collect. I can’t speak about the set’s power level, but I am loving the art. The game is free. You can play on PC and Mac, and on Android and IOS devices. And if you have any of codes you aren’t using, shoot some my way!