My daughter received Pokémon XY cards for Christmas, and I have been thinking about buying a deck to play with her. She has the XY trainer set, and I was looking at the other XY cards to buy. Then, though, I considered the old Team Rocket and Team Rocket Returns sets. These would be fun, as I could clearly be the antagonist, thematically.

I understand that these cards would not be tournament legal. That will not be an issue.

Are they relatively balanced, though? Do later game changes like EX cards and Break cards fundamentally shift the balance toward XY series, or are they just changes in how one constructs a deck? Can I play a Team Rocket (Returns?) deck against an XY deck and not consistently lose because of changes to cards over the years?

2 Answers 2


The newer cards will beat out the older cards very easily. If you want to play as an antagonist themed deck, then there have been Team Aqua, Magma, and Plasma sets recently. These sets will be able to keep up, plus you get the bonus of them being tournament legal (depending on the format).

  • Thanks, that's two useful pieces of information. It looks like if I wanted a tournament legal deck, I'd have to assemble it myself, as the premade ones they've sold have custom backs and aren't usable in tournaments. It's not a big deal, but it seems to be the case. Do you know whether it's true that I'd have to assemble the deck from component cards?
    – rjbs
    Feb 3, 2016 at 23:10
  • I don't know newer decks may struggle with seeing a playset of energy removal on the other side of the table.
    – Neil Meyer
    Feb 5, 2016 at 6:31

The power in the older sets of the Pokémon TCG lay in the trainers. Things like gust of wind, energy removal and trainer bill were tremendous to play with. When you compare the older Pokémon with their modern counterparts then the power creep becomes clear.

Remember that the first deck that dominated the early Pokémon meta was called Haymaker and it's marquee card was Hitmonchan. A card that for its time was the most efficient attacker with 20 damage for a single energy. The heart gold /soul silver set on the other hand introduced Donphan that was format defining for doing 60 damage for a single energy.

  • 1
    Thanks, this is interesting, but I'm not entirely sure it answers my question. It sounds like new cards do more damage per Pokémon, but the older sets had more powerful trainer cards. Does it balance out, or do the modern monsters win out in the end?
    – rjbs
    Jan 3, 2016 at 17:34
  • It depends largely on the cards available to you, but... probably not. The trainer cards aren't better by enough.
    – Vivian
    Dec 13, 2017 at 15:27

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