Poké Balls in the TCG
In the Pokémon anime and video games, Poké Balls are used to capture and store Pokémon. In the trading card game, they serve a similar role by finding Pokémon from your deck. They're among the game's many item cards, any number of which can be played each turn before attacking.
Tutoring needed cards is a powerful effect, especially with evolution cards (which must first build on basic Pokémon), but each device works a bit differently. But which items reign supreme?
These are the 10 best Poké Balls in the Pokémon TCG!
10. Poké Ball
Despite being weak in the video games, the Poké Ball is surprisingly strong in the TCG—if it works. You flip a coin, and if it lands heads, you add any Pokémon from your deck to your hand, basic or evolved.
While reliant on luck, you'll score a powerful search when things go your way, gaining whatever ally you need. Just remember you can't search your "prize cards" (which are randomly taken from your deck at the start), so there's a small chance you actually won't find what you're after.
9. Master Ball
Set: Gym Challenge
The strongest Poké Ball in the games, the infamous Master Ball functions like the updated Great Ball card, adding any Pokémon from the top seven cards of your deck to your hand. Sure, this limits your options, but there are no coin flips and you can select both evolved and unevolved Pokémon.
The Master Ball also received a new variant in Plasma Blast, where it searches your deck for any Pokémon. However, this counts as your single "Ace Spec" card (decks can only have one), preventing you from using another.
8. Great Ball/Dusk Ball
Set: EX FireRed & LeafGreen/Mysterious Treasures
Originally, the Great Ball worked like the Nest Ball, but now it mimics the Master Ball, adding any Pokémon from your deck's top seven cards to your hand. A limited but still useful search.
More recently, we saw the almost-identical Dusk Ball, which again searches for a Pokémon of any stage, but this time from your deck's bottom seven cards. In most cases, one will do as well as the other, giving the same odds at hunting a specific card.
7. Timer Ball
Set: Sun & Moon
The Timer Ball relies on luck but gives strong odds, flipping two coins and searching your deck for an evolution card for each heads. Of course, you'll average one heads per use, generally tutoring one evolution into your hand.
That's a particularly tempting search; since your deck should have more basic cards than evolved (evolutions are pointless without their base version), they won't show up in your hand as often, making anything that finds them valuable.
6. Premier Ball/Cherish Ball
Set: Great Encounters/Unified Minds
The Premier Ball searches your deck or discard pile for any "Pokémon LV.X" card. These guys functioned similarly to "Pokémon-ex" (granting opponents two prize cards instead of one when beaten), but since they have to be upgraded from their standard evolutions, your deck won't have many of them (again making their tutors invaluable).
More recently, the Cherish Ball serves a similar function by searching your deck for any "Pokémon-GX". Unlike the Premier, the Cherish can't retrieve from the graveyard, but the game's wide variety of eligible GX cards compensates.
5. Ultra Ball
Set: Dark Explorers
At first, the Ultra Ball may look disadvantageous, forcing you to discard two cards just to use it. However, it lets you search through your deck for absolutely any Pokémon.
Sure, that's a lot of card advantage you're losing, but it's a great way to hunt a needed evolution. Plus, it's easier to recover cards in the Pokémon TCG than games like Yu-Gi-Oh! and Magic: The Gathering thanks to hand-replenishing supporters like "Cynthia" and "N". Look through the world championship decks of recent years and you'll often find many copies of this card.
4. Team Magma's/Aqua's Great Ball
Set: Double Crisis
These two cards do the same thing for different types. Team Magma's Great Ball searches a basic Team Magma Pokémon from your deck and a Fighting (not Fire as you may expect) energy; Aqua tutors a Team Aqua Pokémon alongside Water energy.
While Team Magma and Aqua have long since faded from the current rotation, getting two cards for one alongside a Pokémon search offers impressive power.
3. Net Ball
Set: Lost Thunder
Perfect for any Grass deck, the Net Ball searches for either a basic Grass Pokémon or basic Grass energy. While you can't find evolved monsters, this ensures you can find the first stage in an evolutionary line, a crucial Grass-type GX, or a missing energy drop.
2. Dive Ball
Set: Primal Clash
Water Pokémon receive another excellent type-specific item; the Dive Ball searches any Water-type Pokémon from your deck. Obviously, this won't work when running other types, but it provides Water players an invaluable tool other elements lack.
1. Luxury Ball
Set: Stormfront 86
With the small caveat of not being able to find Pokémon LV.X, the Luxury Ball nabs any Pokémon card from your deck. The only catch is that you can't use it if you have a Luxury Ball in your discard pile, but this means every deck in its rotation could (and should) safely use one.
I also love the gambling factor here; do you play it safe by only deck-building with one? Or increase your odds of drawing it by using multiple, but thus render duplicates useless? The choice is yours.
Deck-Building in the Pokémon TCG
Today we examined some of the TCG's best tutors; how many should you use per deck? Well, remember that you're limited to cards included in the current rotation (unless playing a non-standard format) and that decks can have up to four of the same card.
Usually, about 50-70% of a deck's total cards are Trainer cards, of which about four tend to be some sort of Poké Ball variant. Experiment to find what works for you, but for now, as we await Nintendo's next set of Poké Ball cards, vote for your favorite and I'll see you at our next gaming countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill