Ever since it came into being in 1996, the Pokémon TCG has promoted itself through special, rare promo cards. They’ve been released for everything from movies to CD’s to tournaments to readers of CoroCoro Comics.
10. Marill (ANA Promotion)
Most TCG fans are familiar with the Pikachu promo card for All Nippon Airways (ANA), but Pikachu wasn’t the only Pokémon to promote the major Japanese airline. Marill, the aquatic mouse known for accompanying Pokémon watcher Tracey, also got its own ANA promo card. Similar to the Azumarill card that made #8 on my last list, the appeal of this card is two attacks that work well with each other. Marill’s first attack, Rebound, triples the damage of its second attack, Jump On. Jump On in turn has a chance of paralysis if the coin flips in your favor, and 10 damage either way (30 if you use Rebound first). Plus, the card art (featuring an airborne Marill over a sunset-lit sea) is really pretty.
9. Kangaskhan (Parent/Child Tournament Promo)
What Pokémon is better as a prize for a Parent/Child Tournament than the kangaroo Pokémon Kangaskhan? This card was released for the Parent/Child Mega Battle tournament in May 1998 to those parent-child teams that had won a certain number of times. The attacks on this card are Dizzy Punch, whose damage can range from 10 to 30 based on coin flips, and Mega Punch. Both are pretty decent, and require only colorless energy. The card has never been released in English.
8. Darkrai (Movie 10 Promo)
This card came out in Japan as a promo for the 10th Pokémon movie, Dialga vs Palkia vs Darkrai (known as The Rise of Darkrai in the U.S.). Like the Darkrai released for the video games at the same time, this Darkrai has Palkia and Dialga’s signature attacks Spacial Rend and Roar of Time. Roar of Time is the more powerful attack with 80 damage as well as letting you search for Pokémon from your discard pile, but it requires three Metal Energies, and Metal Energies are hard to come by. Spacial Rend only causes 10 damage, but it only requires one Water Energy (a much more plentiful energy type) and allows you to search your deck for a Stadium Card. Also, Darkrai has a special Hold Item – the Enigma Berry – that allows you to remove 4 damage counters from it when it’s attacked by a Fighting-type Pokémon. Since Darkrai is weak to Fighting, this is an advantage. The card also has a retreat cost of 1, which is pretty low for a high-level, high-HP Pokémon like Darkrai. All in all, it’s a pretty good card, if you have Metal and Darkness energies handy.
7. _____’s Pikachu (Wizards of the Coast Promo 24)
This card is also sometimes called “Happy Birthday Pikachu” or “Birthday Pikachu” and features a picture of Pikachu with a birthday cake and a present. It’s also the only card that lacks flavor text, instead having a blank for you to write your birthday. The card’s one attack, Birthday Surprise, normally does 30 damage. It can do 80 damage if you flip a heads, but only if it’s your birthday. If it’s your birthday and you flip tails, you only do 30 damage. This card was released in Japan in 1999 with the Pokémon 2nd Anniversary Calendar and in the U.S. through a Wizards of the Coast mail campaign in 2000. A variant of the card with slightly different art was released later in volume six of the Natta Wake comic in Japan, but this version was not released in the U.S.
6. Misty’s Treatment (CD Promo)
This interesting Trainer Card was released with the CD single Rapurasu ni Notte (Riding on Lapras), which featured the song of that name, sung by Mayumi Iizuka, Misty’s Japanese voice actress. The card was never released in English. With this card, you can remove 3 damage counters from 1 Lapras card in play. It is the only card like it to focus on one species of Pokémon.
5. Magikarp (University Promo)
This is the only promo card ever released of Magikarp. It might not deserve the honor, but it’s still interesting. First of all, the art looks like Magikarp using Ice Beam, which is a move it can’t actually learn in the games (since it can’t learn any TM’s). That is intriguing enough. The card’s two moves are Trickle and Dragon Rage. Both require two coins to be flipped, but Trickle actually does damage regardless of outcome – 10 times the number of heads. Dragon Rage, on the other hand, does 50 if two heads are flipped, but nothing if even one coin is tails. Dragon Rage is another game move Magikarp can’t learn (although Gyarados can learn it), and is probably the reason for the card’s flavor text, which claims that “recent research has revealed the presence of dragon DNA in Magikarp’s body.” Anyway, the card is called a “University Promo” because it was originally awarded in June 1998 to those who completed the Pokémon Hyper Test at Tamamushi University (a virtual university run by Nintendo, according to a video made by the South China Morning Post). It was later released as part of the Japanese “Pokémon Web” expansion, which was sold exclusively through Pokémon Center Online and was the first Pokémon TCG expansion to be available only on the Internet. It was never released in English.
4. Riolu (Comic-Con 2009 Promo)
This card was released in Japan in the Galactic’s Conquest Entry Pack in the Dialga Half Deck, and it made its American debut as a giveaway at the Pokémon TCG booth at Comic-Con 2009. The English version has the same attacks, flavor text, and art as the Japanese original, except that a small Comic-Con logo appears in the lower right-hand corner of the artwork (as is also the case with the promo Shellos given out last year). One odd thing about the card (both the Japanese original and the one given out at Comic-Con) is that the first attack, Light Punch, is preceded by a grayish spot, similar to an ink smudge, instead of an Energy symbol. I don’t know if this is meant to signal a new type of Energy card or if it is an error. At any rate, the other attack, Steady Punch, does have normal energy symbols in front of it, and it does 20 damage, plus 10 more if you flip a heads. That’s a decent substitute for the mysteriously-labeled 10-damage Light Punch.
3. Lapras (Southern Islands)
As mentioned before, the Southern Islands set was released at theaters showing Pikachu’s Vacation, the Pikachu short for the first film. It consisted of 18 cards, arranged in sets of 3 to represent the Sky, Sea, Riverside, Jungle, Field of Flowers, and Beach areas of the Southern islands. Each set came with a postcard that featured all the art from the three included cards put together. Lapras is part of the Tropical Island Sea set, with Tentacruel and Marill. (The Tropical Island group also includes the Jungle set and the Beach set). It has two attacks, Gentle Song and Ice Beam, which let it be a 70 HP status machine. Gentle Song, while it heals you and your opponent by 20, causes your opponent to fall asleep. Ice Beam does 20 damage and has a chance of paralysis if you flip heads. Not a bad combo. The card art, which features Lapras playing in the water with Dratini in the background, is cute too. Apparently Wizards of the Coast released Southern Islands here after fans pestered them (good fans!), though it may be out of print.
2. Jigglypuff (Wizard Promo 7)
Long-time fans will remember this card, which was part of a promotion tied to the Pokémon: The First Movie soundtrack. You had to send in a proof of purchase from the soundtrack to get the card. It was apparently released in Japan as well, with the book Easily Understand How to Play Pokémon Cards in October 1996, and was also released in CoroCoro a month later. Not only is the art memorable (Jigglypuff with musical notes behind it), but the attacks are decent as well. First Aid lets you remove 1 damage counter from Jigglypuff, and Double-edge does 40 damage but causes 20 damage to you. Normally, attacks that have counter-damage are a bad thing, but with First Aid, you can take the hit and then heal. Nifty, huh?
1. Ancient Mew (2nd Movie Promo)
Here we are at last at #1, and what other card to choose but the coolest-looking promo card in existence? Released in both Japan and the U.S. as a promo card for the 2nd movie, it shows a very Egyptian-looking Mew, medieval Futhark Runic and Gothenburg Runic writing, and a very sparkly background. Due to it being in runic letters, it’s more a card to collect than to play with (since no one can actually read it). It’s also all that Lawrence III, the villain of the 2nd movie, is left with at the end, and was the start of his collection. There is only one attack, Psyche, which does 40 damage and requires two Psychic energy. This card is an example of a promo card where an error ups the rarity; early runs had a line across the artwork and a misspelling of the word “Nintendo.” These were corrected in later print runs, but now the version with errors is rarer and more desired than the correct version is. The card itself, when in existence, was worth quite a lot; I saw one on sale at a card store for $70 (for just the one card!). It’s not worth as much anymore, though (it’s listed for $1-$2 in my most recent copy of Beckett’s), which is a pity.
In conclusion, promo cards are worth collecting, even if you can’t play with them (because of Modified rules or some other reason). Some are still worth something – Tropical Wind, a card given out at the 2004 World Championships, is worth $200-$300. If you don’t have any promos, there’s always the trusty non-promo 1st Edition Base Set holo Charizard which, though it has gone down in value, is still worth $75-$125. Heck, I got my Comic-Con 2009 Riolu just for coming to a booth, and I won my first TCG game there to boot, albeit a simplified 30-card 3-prize game against a kid named Alex with a booth employee telling us what moves to make the whole time. At least all my cards were water-types!
Anyway, that’s all for this time. I’m going to be making this a monthly thing now, and I’m open to topic suggestions, so feel free to suggest something. Till next time, keep collecting!