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Beginner's Guide to PTCGO (It's Free!)

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»JC.    5325

Hello. This section is pretty inactive, and our pinned introduction thread is from 2013. This is bad, because a Yu-Gi-Oh! player checking out this side of the forum would likely leave completely lost about it. So, I've decided to write up a quick guide to getting started with this game online.


Note: This is designed for people that haven't played before and might be interested in trying it out.


Unlike the simulators many Yu-Gi-Oh! players are used to, Pokémon Trading Card Game Online (PTCGO) differs: it is an automated, official client. It does not start you out with a full collection, meaning you will need to build up a collection of cards. This guide will revolve around the steps needed to take you from the starter decks they give you to actually building meta decks.


Step 1: Ready, Set, Go!

You can find the client downloads all right here on this page: https://www.pokemon.com/us/pokemon-tcg/play-online/download/

PC and tablet versions exist for both Microsoft and Apple devices. Once you download the game, you will go through a short tutorial on a guest account that will teach you the basic rules of the game. After this is done, click on the Upgrade option to register a full account and transfer your guest progress to it.


Step 1.5: Pay to Play

If you want to entirely avoid the ramp-up experience of the app and head immediately into playing the best decks in the format, go to ebay and find a stack of "PTCGO Pack Codes". At the time of writing, Guardian Rising packs are the standard pack of choice. Skip ahead to Step 7.

As a note, if you do things this way, the cost to skip the grind is roughly $20, which is enough to buy ~50 pack codes. This will get you a complete, powerful deck filled with reusable staple cards at a price less than a regular retail game ($40-60).


Step 2: Five Formats

PTCGO offers five formats. Unlike Yu-Gi-Oh, but like MTG, Hearthstone, and many others, the PTCG uses a Rotating format. Each year, around September, old cards rotate out of the Standard Format to keep the game fresh. If you're considering getting "into" the game, Standard is likely the format you're aiming for.

If you play for a while and build up a collection, the cards aren't worthless once they rotate out. Two additional formats, Expanded, Legacy, and Unlimited allow for a wider variety of card pools. Naturally, decks in these formats are rather powerful, due to the ability to mix and match the strongest cards out of a much larger pool.

The fourth and final format, Theme, is where new players are best to start out. This is the equivalent of a Structure Decks Only format in Yu-Gi-Oh. It features simple, preconstructed decks, meaning you don't have to worry about veterans with large collections stomping on you repeatedly. The game will give you the Mental Might Theme deck to start out with.


Step 3: Getting Your First Cards

The Mental Might structure deck is only one of a few goodies that you can get at the start of the game. If you go to Cart (3rd option on the top of your screen) -> Redeem Codes, you can obtain another deck and a couple of other goodies. Here are the codes:

plasmastorm: Rallying Cry (deck)

darkexplorers: Pokemon-EX Hat (avatar item)

1pikachu4u: Pikachu (a card)


Additionally, you can unlock three decks named Born of Fire, Hidden Depths, and Crushing Current by playing...


Step 4: Trainer Challenge

The Trainer Challenge is a vs. AI mode where the player uses the three decks mentioned above or a theme deck they have purchased to earn rewards. If you beat seven different trainers with Born of Fire, Hidden Depths, or Crushing Current, you will unlock the deck, allowing you to use the cards in other modes, including the Theme Deck format.

Furthermore, the Trainer Challenge provides rewards in the form of Tokens (the in-game currency) and booster packs. To unlock the maximum rewards, you will need to beat each trainer in the Trainer Challenge with four different decks. A green check mark will appear next to a trainer if you have beaten them with your currently selected deck, and the number of stars under the trainer will show how many decks you've been them with. This will be a useful addition to your early collection.


Step 5: Obtaining Currency

Once you get your first 500 tokens, you can use it to purchase your first Theme Deck. I will talk about the theme deck format at a later time; for now, just know that the most recent ones are the best. Pick your favourite from Hidden Moon, Rock Steady, Luminous Frost, and Steel Sun.


With your shiny new Theme Deck in tow, you're ready to take on the Theme VS. Ladder, where you will be matched up against other players. The rewards you earn come in two sections:

(1) Daily Rewards - Each day, your first 11 wins will give you a set reward, such as tokens or lootbox, which contain larger coin bonuses and occasionally a booster pack.

(2) Monthly* Rewards - Every three weeks, the ladder updates with a new set of rewards. For each win, you'll gain 10 points, up to a maximum of 2000. You can also gain up to 20 bonus points (30 total) if you go on a winstreak. In the event you lose, you will get 1 point per prize claimed. The rewards include tokens, individual cards, booster packs, and lootchests (coins + a random chest).

Note that if you complete the daily rewards, you will have a total of 11*20 wins, which is enough to gain full rewards on the larger ladder, even without the winstreak bonus. In the long term (or, well, a few weeks), it is totally fine for you to concede a theme game a few turns in if you think you have a low chance of winning due to a lack of Energy Cards, draw power, or otherwise. Play competitive games, but there's no need to waste 15 minutes on a game where you just get stomped.


The currency you will gain can be spent on booster packs or more theme decks. Here would be a purchase priority list:

(1) Any limited-time events that have a promo card you want.

(2) Tournaments where you have a strong deck (with Theme format, Hidden Moon is the best deck at the time of writing). See step 6 for more discussion about tournaments.

(3) Theme Decks that contain Trainers (Item and Supporter cards) you do not have a playset of. Typically, you can base your decision entirely on those cards, as nearly all staples in the game come in the form of Trainers. A rare exception would be that you need to pick up two copies of Wave Splasher if you want to play a deck known as Greninja BREAK. However, as a new player, you may not want to commit to a certain deck right away. In the future, I may make a guide about the current popular decks, but for now, I'll have to direct you to use outside sources of media. For each new theme deck, you'll also get a complimentary booster pack if you win 12 games in the Trainer Challenge.

(3) Booster Packs containing cards you need.

(4) Cosmetic Items


Furthermore, as you may have already noticed, there are multiple ways to gain currency. Here's a checklist on how to prioritise that:

(1) Daily Challenges & Special Challenges. Each day, you will be given a "quest." Completing these give coins and packs as rewards. As you level up, you'll get harder quests with larger rewards. Each quest is related to a certain Type of Pokémon, so it will help to have multiple theme decks that will allow you to pick the appropriate Type.

(2) Daily VS Rewards. Like the above, these reset each day, and you'll always want to aim for time-gated rewards first

(3) The Trainer Challenge. When you've completed getting your daily rewards, you can work your way through the Trainer Challenge. Aim to use decks that still have unlockable rewards related to them while also progressing. I would suggest going through the challenge entirely (there are three different levels) before trying to get the four-star rewards. Once all trainers are 4-starred, you can aim for to gain the unlockable booster packs by facing the lowest level league.


Step 6: Tradelocked and Tradeable Cards

If you look at the collection you've started to get from all of the above, you'll notice that they all contain a lock. This means you cannot trade them. In-game rewards earned from the above means will always be trade-locked. There is one method to gaining tradeable events: Tournaments.


One of the rewards you'll gain while going through versus mode are Tournament Tickets. These are your tickets (literally) to gaining cards and packs that you can trade with other users. The types and rewards of tournaments are also on a rotation, but they fall into these general categories:

Token Tournaments: Pay tokens to play in the tournament. You will be rewarded with Tournament Tickets.

Ticket Tournaments: Pay tickets to play in the tournament. You will be rewarded with tradeable booster packs. You can gamble with these and try to open the cards you need, but the pack-cracking urges are best left to tradelocked packs. In this game, packs are the ultimate form of currency.


The other method of gaining tradeable items is from IRL products. Every pack, box, tin, and so on will contain unique redeemable codes for tradeable content in the online counterpart. If you go to your LGS to play, there's a chance you'll be able to get a deal on these codes either from the store or from players that don't happen to play the online version of the game.


In order to make the jump, you will need to start playing in tournaments at some point. The fastest possible route to getting "out of" playing Theme decks is to buy a strong theme deck (e.g. Hidden Moon), play tournaments using your coins to get tickets, and then using your tickets to get packs.

Step 7: Trading

At this point, you have some tradeable packs. If you've been following the rest of the guide, you may have even gotten a few cool cards that make you excited to build a deck around. Regardless, it is time to put these packs to good use. You can check out a rough approximation of the value of cards here:  https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1c1f_CdC_RIlzz_JMfFjBQmfZmgUXjkBlE86EzcJQOI0/edit#gid=1768215359


As you may have seen earlier in the guide, I suggested using currency for theme decks that contain Trainer cards you don't have. It is worth mentioning again: Trainer cards are the backbone of every deck. Trainer cards are reusables. Staples are trainer cards. A deck with strong Items and Supporters but middling Pokémon will win against a deck that contains powerful Pokémon but has bad trainers. Exceptions in the past to this rule have included Shaymin EX and Tapu Lele GX. The reason? They provided the effects of powerful Trainer cards.

Yu-Gi-Oh! is a crazy game where you can constantly be searching your deck and setting up with powerful cards Lavalval Chain (oops), Pot of Greed (oops x2), or Card Destruction (wow, a recurring theme). In Pokémon, you will be casually throwing down cards like "Discard your hand and draw seven" every turn. The staples will change over time, so I won't include them in this guide, but you will first want generic trainers that help you draw cards regardless of deck (example: Professor Sycamore). Then, you will want generic Trainers that provide supplementary effects regardless of deck (example: Float Stone). After that, you will want more specific Trainers that supplement your deck's Type or strategy (example: Dive Ball). Finally, once all of the trainers are complete, you may then begin trading for the Pokémon that form different deck cores.


To actually perform a trade, go to Collection (2nd tab on the top) -> Trade. You'll be able to see offers for items you own and use the search function to narrow down the search to cards you are looking for. You can post your own offers as well.



Step 8: Building a Deck

When you've finally gotten ready to build a deck by trading some of the packs you've won with tournaments, it is important to note some bad habits that seeing Theme decks may have given you regarding deck balance.

(1) You don't need that much energy. 10 energy is fine for most decks. Some use less. Decks that revolve around recycling and discarding energy might use a bit more.

(2) Use more trainer cards. Especially cards that let you draw more cards. Trainers make up the majority of your deck. Trainers let you see the cards you want to see. Fit in as many of these cards as possible.

(3) Use equal lines of Pokémon. Theme decks will present you with evolution lines that go 2-1, 3-2, 4-3-1, etc. Generally, you will actually generally be wanted to run a number straight down the line (1-1, 4-4-4). This is because if you have good trainer cards, you will be able to get the cards you need. Each non-fully evolved Pokémon you run without an evolved counterpart in the deck is a dead card that will not help you win the game. Take out your weaker Pokémon to either put in better Pokémon or some shiny trainer cards.





Welcome to the Pokémon TCG!

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