There are three different formats as of right now which can be quite confusing for new players, and even for veterans. This article will give information of each format, why they exist and what rules each of them consist of. The formats are; Standard, Expanded and Legacy. We will begin with explaining the most straight-forward format, which is Standard. At the end, we will explain where and how these formats are being used for tournament play.


This format is the main prodigy for the Pokémon TCG in Europe and the United States. It contains mostly the latest released sets. Moreover, as more sets release in the future, the oldest sets that were included in the Standard format, may be rotated out.

May? Yes may, as the Pokémon company has no official rules for this phenomenon, they simply make the decision which sets will be rotated out and which will remain when the time comes. As a reason to use a rotation system for the Standard format, the Pokémon company states the following:

“In the interest of maintaining a healthy tournament environment, Pokémon Organized Play begins each new tournament season by removing older expansions from Standard format competition. Each annual rotation challenges existing players to create new strategies while enabling new players to get involved in Play! Pokémon events with minimal investment.”

The reason is thus to maintain a ‘healthy’ tournament environment. What they mean by this exactly, is unknown. It probably has something to do with the fact that change is a good thing, also in the Pokémon TCG, to which some may agree, and some may not. For those who do not agree or do not like change one bit, there is the Expanded format, but we will get to that later.

Below are the sets that are currently included within the 2018 “Rotation”. As you can see, the list also contains “Black Star Promo Cards”. These are the cards you can get in boxes and tins, which could even also be reprints of older cards. This means they could get any EX card from the older Black & White series for example, and reprint it as a Promo card to make it legal again for the current standard rotation. Moreover, there are even some promotional EX cards that are exclusive to boxes, cards such as the (M) Beedrill EX or the (M) Aerodactyl EX. You can’t acquire these cards in booster packs, but they can be used in the Standard format nonetheless.


The included sets:

  • XY—BREAKthrough
  • XY—BREAKpoint
  • Generations
  • XY—Fates Collide
  • XY—Steam Siege
  • S&M Base
  • S&M Guardians Rising
  • S&M Burning Shadows
  • S&M Crimson Invasion
  • S&M Ultra Prism
  • McDonald’s Collection 2015
  • XY Trainer Kit—Latias and Latios
  • XY Trainer Kit—Pikachu Libre and Suicune
  • Black Star Promo Cards: XY36 and higher


As stated before, Expanded is a format for the ones that are a little less fond of change. Consequently, the Expanded format contains more sets than the Standard format. All the sets that are in Standard are also in Expanded, but all the older XY and Black & White sets are included as well. This means that the strategies and possibilities in expanded are much less limited in comparison to Standard. Again, some may find this this a good thing, others a bad thing. Although standard is currently the most popular format in the US and Europe, expanded is much more popular in other (mostly Asian) countries, including Japan.

The older Black & White sets contain EX cards with the same design as the current EX cards.

The following sets are included in expanded:

  • Black & White
  • Black & White—Emerging Powers
  • Black & White—Noble Victories
  • Black & White—Next Destinies
  • Black & White—Dark Explorers
  • Dragon Vault
  • Black & White—Dragons Exalted
  • Black & White—Boundaries Crossed
  • Black & White—Plasma Storm
  • Black & White—Plasma Freeze
  • Black & White—Plasma Blast
  • Black & White—Legendary Treasures
  • Black & White Trainer Kit
  • XY—Kalos Starter Set
  • XY
  • XY—Flashfire
  • XY—Furious Fists
  • XY—Phantom Forces
  • XY—Primal Clash
  • Double Crisis
  • XY—Roaring Skies
  • XY—Ancient Origins
  • XY—BREAKthrough
  • XY—BREAKpoint
  • Generations
  • XY—Fates Collide
  • XY—Steam Siege
  • Sun & Moon Base
  • Sun & Moon Guardians Rising
  • Sun & Moon Burning Shadows
  • McDonald’s Collection 2011
  • McDonald’s Collection 2012
  • McDonald’s Collection 2013
  • McDonald’s Collection 2014
  • McDonald’s Collection 2015
  • XY Trainer Kit 
  • XY Trainer Kit—Bisharp and Wigglytuff
  • XY Trainer Kit—Latias and Latios
  • XY Trainer Kit—Pikachu Libre and Suicune
  • Black Star Promo Cards: BW01 and higher, XY01 and higher.


The third, and newest format is the Legacy format. Even though it is the newest format, it contains the oldest cards. Not only are the old Black & White sets included in this format, the even older Heartgold & Soulsilver sets are included as well. This allows for even more possible strategies and will consequently have the strangest decks within all the formats. With all these improved strategy possibilities, unfortunately also comes more imbalance. Therefore, this format isn’t particularly popular (yet) and isn’t used within any official tournaments. Which leads to the following question; what do they use within (official) tournaments?

Some examples of cards from the Heartgold & Soulsilver sets

Tournament Play

Now, all three formats can be used for versus and tournament play in the online client. But, what do they play at the official real life tournaments you ask? The answer is, mostly Standard. Although, the Expanded format is increasing in popularity rapidly, which has led to it being used more and more within Tournaments, especially in the United States. There will even be tournaments in the near future, which will actively switch between Standard and Expanded, so you would have to use two different decks that can compete in both formats. Nonetheless, currently all European regional championships are (still) using the standard format.

Note: On this site you can also find a format that is called ‘unlimited’. This is simply a fun format that contains all cards ever to be released in the Pokémon TCG.

For more information about tournament play, you could read this article

Want to discuss the different formats with other TCG Players? Check out our forums.

This topic contains 0 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  SventheMan 5 months ago.

  • Author
  • #14303 Score: 0


    There are three different formats as of right now which can be quite confusing for new players, and even for veterans. This article will give informat
    [See the full post at: All three Pokémon TCG Formats Explained]

    Want to create a cool HTML forum signature like this? Go to your Profile and click on "Edit"! 🙂

  • #14304 Score: 0

    Respected Trainer

    Is this still up-to-date?

  • #14305 Score: 0

    New Trainer

    It sure is, and will be updated to the new rotation too.

  • #14306 Score: 0
     Dragon Trainer

    Respected Trainer

    Very nice guide will legacy become more popular in the future you think?

  • #14307 Score: 0


    I really don’t understand why Standard is the most popular format. Expanded is much more balanced and much more fun than Standard…

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