My Top 20 Pokémon Cards of 2022
My Top 20 Pokémon Cards of 2022
I’ve really enjoyed doing an annual review of all the new Magic cards that come out each year so I’ve decided to do the same for the Pokémon TCG as well. This time the format is much simpler. I’ll just be choosing my favourite twenty cards for the year. This isn’t just a list of the twenty strongest cards of the year, but I’ll consider other factors like the novelty of the design, how fun or exciting the card is and the artwork. Read on to find out what stood out the most, made the biggest impact and which cards I just loved the most in 2022.
Number 20 – Magikarp (Pokémon GO)
Magikarp is an iconic pokémon that has almost always had terrible cards. This is by design because as we all know, Magikarp is a weak pokémon that evolves into the mighty Gyarados. This summer the Pokémon GO set shook up the formula by giving us a really fun Magikarp. There are two things that make this one of my favourite cards of the year. Firstly the damage output of the Raging Fin attack is a big enough payoff for committing yourself to Magikarp and Gyarados. It doesn’t require evolution or multiple energy attachments so you can realistically focus on putting as many Magikarp and Gyarados in your discard pile as possible. When you do, Raging Fin is capable of dishing out huge amounts of damage for a one prize pokémon. Fun decks like this often require huge amounts of set up for a middling amount of damage so it’s great to see a casual archetype made much stronger and more reliable.
Secondly this Magikarp works really well with previous Gyarados cards. The Gyarados from Burning Shadows in particular has a similar payoff as it does 50 damage for each Magikarp in your discard pile. Magikarp’s first attack Lively Grouping is also valuable for many older Gyarados cards which get stronger when you have more Magikarp. It’s exciting to see such a classic pokémon finally get a really fun design and it makes Gyarados decks much better too. The top of this list is dominated by staple cards that have proven themselves in competitive play but fun cards that make me want to build a new casual deck are also worthy of recognition so this sneaks onto the list at number twenty.
Number 19 – Origin Forme Dialga VSTAR
This was the year of VSTAR pokémon and our first is Origin Forme Dialga VSTAR. I believe Dialga GX was the first pokémon card that let you take another turn, which is one of the most powerful effects you can put on a card. You get to draw another card, play another supporter, attach another energy, activate abilities again and attack all whilst your opponent is powerless to react. Dialga GX was a great GX card and now we have an even bigger and badder version. Origin Forme Dialga can easily knockout one pokémon with Star Chronos and then knockout another with Metal Blast which is devastating. It does take some set-up to get enough energy on Dialga VSTAR but the reward is so powerful that you can build a deck focused on doing this, and there are some disgusting Dialga VSTAR decks in the expanded format.
This is clearly a crazy card and deserving of a place on this list. However playing against someone who takes your turn results in you being unable to play the game. This means I can’t put it any higher up on the list because there are plenty of other strong cards that aren’t as miserable to play against.
Number 18 – Blastoise (Pokémon GO)
I know that stage two pokémon require so much set-up and deck space that they are almost automatically unplayable but like many other players I still love the classic idea of evolving pokémon from a basic into a stage two. Blastoise from Pokémon GO caught my eye because the Vitality Spring ability is one of the most incredible pieces of energy acceleration I have ever seen so I had to name as one of the top twenty cards of the year. Not only does it attach six energy cards, none of the restrictions you expect to see are here. It isn’t restricted to basic energy so it works with any special energy which is nuts. You don’t need to set this up by getting the energy into your hand or your discard pile. You can attach to other pokémon and spread the energy around. The fact that this is on a stage two and ends your turn is actually a fair price to pay for such an absurd energy acceleration. Other cards in this list will see much more play, but this is definitely one of the craziest abilities printed on a card this year.
Number 17 – Manaphy (Brilliant Stars)
There have been some very powerful attackers in recent years such as Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX that are excellent at hitting benched pokémon. Manaphy isn’t a revolutionary new card design but it was something the standard format was badly missing. We have seen this in the past on pokémon like Mew and Mr. Mime but this doesn’t make Manaphy any less impactful on the metagame. It has seen a ton of play and has shaped the metagame ever since its release in Brilliant Stars. Manaphy isn’t a ground-breaking new design or one that gets you excited to build decks around it but it’s undeniably one of the most important pokémon cards of the year.
Number 16 – Lumineon V
Lumineon V is one of the highlights of the year for many of the same reasons as Manaphy. It’s a water pokémon that many decks can run, and it’s the new updated version of a classic effect. Tapu Lele-GX was a fantastic pokémon and Lumineon V is pretty similar. You can find this from a Quick Ball whenever you need a supporter. Being able to turn a simple ball search card into a new hand of seven cards with Professor’s Research feels fantastic. This was an instant hit and it’s nice to see a pokémon that hasn’t had great cards in the past get some love in the card game. It gives you hope for many other cool pokémon that haven’t had powerful cards in the past. This is an important card for the Standard format and especially for decks that lean on a specific supporter so it certainly belongs on this list. However like Manaphy this is a riff on a classic design so it isn’t wild and new which is why this is my number sixteen.
Number 15 – Hisuian Goodra VSTAR
The second VSTAR I have to talk about is Hisuian Goodra VSTAR. This isn’t the most exciting pokémon ever, but it is so phenomenal at taking hits. The base HP of 270 is good but not unprecedented. If it is powered up and attacking you need to do 350 damage to knock it out in one go. If you can’t do that the 80 damage reduction ability gets even stronger. You then need to do 220 damage a turn to get a knock out In two turns. Being a dragon type Hisuian Goodra has no weaknesses and you can combine the Rolling Iron damage reduction with other damage reduction effects to make a pokémon that is obnoxiously difficult to knock out.
The VSTAR power is certainly one of the least exciting VSTAR powers but if your opponent has spent several turns chipping away at a Hisuian Goodra it’s so demoralising to completely undo all those attacks. Hisuian Goodra VSTAR is one of the best pokémon ever printed at just taking hits and just shrugging them off. I doubt Hisuian Goodra will ever dominate competitive play but it certainly has its fans and is exceptional at what it does, so I had to include it on my list.
Number 14 – Roseanne’s Backup
Best Supporter Card of 2022
We have had some strong trainers this year with Roxanne as a nice Marnie variant or Serena as an interesting split card that offers card draw or a conditional Boss’s Orders. These are great trainer cards but I wanted to pick a trainer that does something that hasn’t been done before. Tools, stadiums and special energies are usually gone forever once they are discarded or milled so being able to reuse one of each is pretty unique. I don’t know if Roseanne’s Backup has a home where it really shines but this is a very interesting effect. Stadiums and special energies are often very powerful and core to a deck’s strategy so getting more chances to play them is really strong. It’s also just a lot of fun to be able to choose all four modes from a long list of options which is why Roseanne’s Backup is my favourite supporter card of 2022.
Number 13 – Drapion V
Mew VMAX has been the overall best deck of the last twelve months. Whilst Lugia VSTAR is the hot new thing dominating Standard, Mew VMAX has been strong all year long. The downside of playing the best deck is that other players will be looking for any card that counters your deck. These answers are known as tech and they play a big part in the competitive side of the TCG. Drapion V is one of the craziest tech options I can remember. Like many great tech options it has colourless attack costs and is a basic pokémon so it can go in almost any deck very easily. What makes Drapion V interesting is how good it is versus Mew VMAX and how bad it is against other decks. Between the energy reduction given by the Wild Style ability and Mew’s weakness to dark types, Drapion V is incredible at knocking out Mew VMAX but not very efficient against anything else. If extremely powerful decks like Mew VMAX are going to be pushed in power level then the tech to counter it needs to be pushed too. I don’t know if a card with such a polarising performance depending on the match-up is healthy for the format but you can’t deny how strong Drapion V is and how impactful it has been, so it deserves its spot as one of my cards of the year.
Number 12 – Double Turbo Energy
Best Energy Card of 2022
I had to include a special energy in this list, and there was a very easy candidate. Double Turbo Energy is a very simple alternate version of Double Colorless Energy. The original DCE is so good at acceleration that a weaker version like Double Turbo Energy is still a really impactful card for Standard. Twin Energy is already in Standard but it doesn’t work with Pokémon V which are the most important pokémon in the format. This one energy card makes you re-evaluate every pokémon V that can use it and this made 2022 feel very different to 2021. I also like Double Turbo Energy because it’s an example of a classic card being rebalanced very successfully. It has seen plenty of play so clearly adding the drawback hasn’t made it too weak. I wonder if we will see more variants of DCE with different drawbacks in the future.
Number 11 – Regidrago VSTAR
I don’t know how much of an impact Regidrago VSTAR will make on the Standard metagame but this is an absurd card for the Expanded format and has won multiple online tournaments in the short period it has been legal so far. Whether or not it lasts I don’t know but with the right support Regidrago is incredible. Dragon pokémon in the TCG are famous for really powerful attacks that are balanced by expensive energy costs that require two or more types of energy. Getting to use any of them for just three energy is really strong, especially when you can pair this with the totally broken Double Dragon Energy. Because the expanded format is so large, there are lots of crazy dragon pokémon that you can use. Dialga GX lets you take an extra turn, Noivern GX is super annoying and Mega-Rayquaza EX hits like a truck. Regidrago VSTAR lets you put all of them in the same deck which is wild.
If the Apex Dragon attack wasn’t enough, the Legacy Star ability is really strong and combined with Battle Compressor lets you put any two cards from your deck into your hand. This honestly seems strong enough that it might see something get banned in Expanded. Will it turn out to be much weaker than it looks? I don’t know but I’m excited to find out. If Regidrago VSTAR was a top card in Standard as well it would be right at the top of my rankings.
Number 10 – Giratina VSTAR
I’m not a big fan of Lost Box decks because I find decks that are mostly built from just one set to be less interesting but I had to include something to represent the Lost Zone mechanic. I could have chosen Comfey because it makes Lost Zone decks function, or Mirage Gate for being fantastic energy acceleration but I wanted to choose the most powerful payoff for filling up the Lost Zone. That has to be Giratina’s VSTAR attack that knocks out any pokémon for just two energy. In the past this effect has either had a high energy cost or relied on coin flips which are both very awkward requirements. Giratina VSTAR has a much more interesting requirement because your deck has to be focused on the Lost Zone mechanic but if you get ten cards into the Lost Zone the Star Requiem attack is incredible which is only fitting for such an epic pokémon. It gets even better with the Lost Impact attack that can also instantly knock out a lot of pokémon and the energy you put in the lost zone powers up the VSTAR power. The other Lost Zone cards are good and have shown up in more decks but Giratina VSTAR is far more exciting which is why it is number ten in my best cards of 2022.
Number 9 – Forest Seal Stone
Best Pokémon Tool Card of 2022
Tool cards are rarely very exciting, and I expect in many years there might not be any tools that make my top twenty cards. Brilliant Stars gave us a great damage booster with Choice Belt which is great in a format where many of the best pokémon are all pokémon V. If my top twenty was solely based on competitive play across the whole of 2022 then Choice Belt is the clear winner. However my favourite tool card of 2022 has to be Forest Seal Stone. Giving Pokémon V a VSTAR power is a really cool idea and lets them compete with some of the crazy VSTAR powers that are out there.
Being able to search for any card in your deck is one of the best things you can do in Pokémon. Computer Search is one of the best and most played cards in Expanded and commands a huge price tag because it lets you do just this. That comes with the additional requirement that you have to discard two cards to use it. Forest Seal Stone has some deck building requirements but it’s not hard to stick it on a great support pokémon like Crobat V or Lumineon V and then find the best card in your deck. Not only do you get whatever the best card is in the moment, it also lets you find cards that are often harder to search up like special energy or stadiums which are often a core part of your strategy. I really like the design space of granting VSTAR powers and I think the other two seal stones are fun, but when a card gets compared to Computer Search you know it’s crazy strong.
Number 8 – PokéStop
Best Stadium Card of 2022
2022 hasn’t been the best year for stadiums and there aren’t any stand outs like Path to the Peak from last year but there have been some interesting options. I liked Jubilife Village as an affordable alternative to the practically unobtainable Tropical Beach. Temple of Sinnoh is a nice option to pressure decks that use special energy. Collapsed Stadium and Lost City also saw play.
My favourite stadium of 2022 however is PokéStop. It manages to do two things that I really enjoy. Items are the often the card type you have the most of in your deck because they can be used without the restrictions that every other card type has. However we have never had a stadium that supports filling your deck with items. PokéStop is a fantastic card for an item heavy deck because you can easily draw one or two extra cards every turn and use them straight away. I also like that despite being very strong for you, it’s very likely that your opponent can make some use of it so it doesn’t feel too unfair to leave in play. It is also one of the best stadiums ever printed for decks that want to fill their discard pile with pokémon or energy cards. This is another useful strategy to support because a lot of cards make use of the discard pile. When I build a casual deck I always look for a stadium that matches my theme so I love having a new stadium that is so good for two classic archetypes. Because this is a real boost to so many casual players and has seen play in competitive play, PokéStop is easily my favourite stadium of 2022 and deserves its spot in the top ten cards of the year.
Number 7 – Radiant Charizard
This is the first radiant pokémon on this list and I have to say they were one of the biggest highlights of the year for me. The alternate shiny pokémon and the holo effect made them stand out as a collector’s item whilst not being so rare that they were unobtainable. They were also typically very powerful which is exciting but this was balanced by the restriction that you could only have one radiant pokémon in your deck. In general I think radiant pokémon hit the sweet spot of being desirable cards for collectors and being interesting cards to play with.
Charizard and Pikachu are the most popular pokémon with trading card collectors and the most expensive and sought after card in many sets is often a Charizard or Pikachu. This does get a little repetitive but what is notable is how few are ever very relevant for competitive play. Radiant Charizard was one of the exceptions because doing 250 damage for one energy is absurd, especially when coming from a basic pokémon that only gives up one prize. This had to be in my top ten cards of the year because it’s an iconic pokémon, a very strong card a style of card that I love. It gets stronger when your opponent is taking prizes which happens when you are losing. This gives you hope of being able to stage a dramatic come back and means more games are exciting until the very end. This is definitely one of my favourite cards of the year.
Number 6 – Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR
I’ve already covered Dialga and Giratina so it’s only fitting Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR also made the list. Palkia decks have put up many strong performances in both Standard and Expanded formats. Where do I begin with Palkia? The Subspace Swell attack dishes out a huge amount of damage for two energy. In theory your opponent can play fewer pokémon to make it weaker but that’s usually really difficult in practice. Adding on extra damage from Choice Belt or Inteleon means Palkia can knock out almost anything it wants to. As well as being a fantastic attacker, its VSTAR power makes it an excellent enabler as well. Energy acceleration is often one of the strongest abilities in the game and Star Portal is incredible. Getting three turns ahead of your opponent in terms of energy attachments is totally broken and it’s an incredible partner for Radiant Greninja. You can use Radiant Greninja to get water energy into your discard pile and use Palkia to attack with Greninja as soon as possible. If you snipe some weak basic pokémon on your opponent’s bench before they evolve this can be back breaking.
If this was based purely on how strong a card has been in competitive play then Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR would certainly be higher. What keeps Palkia out of the top five is that I find the design a little boring. It’s just an extremely efficient pokémon and it doesn’t get me excited. It has also been boosted by incredible support for water decks with the Inteleon engine and Radiant Greninja as perfect partners for Palkia, so it’s hard to give this card 100% of the credit for how strong Palkia decks have been this year.
Number 5 – Ditto (Pokémon GO)
I’ve never played Pokémon GO so I wasn’t that excited about the Pokémon GO set when it was first announced. However it turned out to be a great little set with some fantastic cards. I’ve already talked about some of them, but the craziest of them all was the Ditto. Ditto is of course famous for impersonating other pokémon and this has been shown in the past in the TCG with the art or with attacks that copy the attacks of other pokémon. In Pokémon Go the designers went further than ever before with a sticker on top of the ditto that was an almost perfect copy of other cards in the set. If you didn’t spot a small ditto symbol at the bottom you might not notice that it was actually a ditto. You could then peel of the sticker to reveal the ditto.
The ditto is also interesting for decks like Mad Party. This ditto can take the place of a Mad Party the attacker with all your Mad Party pokémon in your discard pile which increases your maximum damage output. It’s also great for the Magikarp-Gyrados deck I mentioned earlier for the same reasons. This wasn’t a radical and amazing pokémon but it was great to have a genuinely useful ditto underneath the sticker. Other pokémon were more exciting, cooler or had a bigger impact on competitive play but the Ditto sticker gimmick made it one of the most unique pokémon cards ever printed so I just had to put it in my top five. Fifth is a great spot to recognise such a fun card before we get to the four cards that really stand out as the absolute best cards of 2022.
Number 4 – Lugia VSTAR [and Archeops] (Silver Tempest)
I had a really tough time separating the top four cards, and so I have separated them in part based on the number of different decks that they support and how much they excite me. My number four forms the core of just one archetype, but that one archetype is dominating Standard play right now. This is one of the most powerful two card combos we have ever seen in a single set. I talked about my excitement for the absurd energy acceleration offered by the Blastoise in Pokémon GO but this is even crazier because of how powerful and consistent it is.
If you have seen any Standard play recently you know that all you need to do is evolve into Lugia VSTAR and get one or two copies of Archeops into your discard pile. Then you can search up and attach two or four special energy with no real restrictions. This doesn’t end your turn, you can use any special energy you like and any attacker you like. This is some of the best energy acceleration ever printed. It’s totally busted and it’s no surprise to see this combo taking over Standard or putting up results in Expanded. I had to include both cards here because whilst Lugia VSTAR is the face of the deck, Archeops’s Primal Turbo ability is the reason Lugia is so dominant. I expect to see a lot more of this duo going into 2023.
Number 3 – Arceus VSTAR
Best Multi-Prize Pokémon of 2022
The VSTAR era began with Brilliant Stars and the face of that set was Arceus VSTAR. Arceus would go on to be the most successful VSTAR pokémon over the course of the entire year. Palkia was great in one or two decks and Lugia has dominated the last few months of the year. However Arceus VSTAR is my pick of all the VSTAR pokémon because it has been so strong all year in lots of different decks. It has won tournaments as part of many different archetypes that this is probably the best pokémon of 2022 for competitive play. It’s so strong because it’s colourless, can go in any deck and provides things most decks really need. Energy acceleration and unrestricted search effects can be used to great effect by many decks. Star Birth can be used to find crucial cards that are vital to your game plan. This can include stadiums and special energy cards that are often otherwise hard to find. You can search for the perfect card that counters your opponent’s strategy or just search for whatever effect you need in the moment.
There is more to this card than an amazing VSTAR power. The Trinity Nova attack is the perfect way to power up your other V pokémon but it also hits hard and can take advantage of Double Turbo Energy. There are a lot of cool V pokémon that become much stronger when supported by Arceus VSTAR and the main reason I like Arceus so much is that it enables many different decks that might not get the chance to shine otherwise. I’m sure plenty of people will have Arceus VSTAR as their top card of 2022 and it would certainly be a worthy winner. However there are a couple of cards this year that I just adore and because this is a list of my personal favourites, Arceus VSTAR has to settle for a very respectable third place overall.
Number 2 – Radiant Greninja
Best Single-Prize Pokemon of 2022
Best Pokémon Card of 2022
Radiant Greninja is my favourite pokémon of 2022 and frankly one of my favourite pokémon cards of all time. Greninja has always been good at attacking your opponent’s benched pokémon but doing 90 damage to two pokémon is really nasty. It can hit basic pokémon before they evolve, support pokémon that prefer to hide on the bench or pick off weak and damaged pokémon that have retreated to the bench. However Radiant Greninja is so good and is worth considering even in decks that can’t use the Moonlight Shuriken attack. The Concealed Cards ability is a really efficient way to draw cards and there are plenty of other cards that synergise with discarded energy cards. I’m so thankful this was a Radiant pokémon because it would be so busted if players could put four copies in their deck.
What really makes Radiant Greninja one of my favourite pokémon of all time is the art. Like Radiant Charizard we have a really striking alternate colour scheme for Greninja and on this card it really makes Greninja look like a true ninja. Most of the radiant pokémon have really generic backgrounds but this one has a beautiful sunset scene with incredible colours. Combined with the radiant pokémon holo pattern this is a gorgeous card. Because this pokémon is great for players and collectors alike, Radiant Greninja is my favourite pokémon card of 2022.
Number 1 – Hisuian Heavy Ball
Best Item Card of 2022
Best Card of 2022
Finally we reach my favourite card of 2022. Having key cards prized is frustrating but it’s also an important part of balancing the game. Making ten percent of your deck inaccessible helps makes games with the same deck play out differently and has a huge impact on deckbuilding. For example the Magikarp I talked about earlier will have its damage output capped by the amount of Magikarp and Gyarados that get prized. A lot of casual pokémon strategies revolve around specific combinations of cards and they tend to get much weaker if any of them are prized. This is a big help to many fun decks that are held back by the prize system. We have had cards like Gladion in the past but being an item is so much stronger than being a supporter.
Hisuian Heavy Ball is also interesting for decks that only run one copy of a basic pokémon. This happens a lot in competitive pokémon. Deck builders might include a single copy of a pokémon that counters other archetypes in the format or is situationally useful. The core of a pokémon deck is often set in stone but the complexity comes in trying to predict the metagame and choosing a few singleton cards that can have a big impact the right match-up. These cards aren’t part of the core strategy but they really test a deckbuilder’s knowledge of the format.
Hisuian Heavy Ball has been pretty ubiquitous in competitive pokémon without being over-powered. As a design it gets much worse in multiples which is great for a strong card because it stops decks becoming too homogenous. It does have some deckbuilding restrictions because you need to be running enough basic pokémon but that isn’t a challenging requirement for most decks. It manages to make the game more fun by letting you play your key cards more often but it doesn’t just replace classic cards like Ultra Ball and Quick Ball. I’m happy playing this card in any deck and I expect it will be a staple for a very long time. In my opinion Hisuian Heavy Ball is an instant classic and without a doubt is my favourite pokémon card of 2022.