In Pokemon Paradox Rift, Everything Old Is New Again

Barely a month after the launch of 151, the newest Pokemon TCG set and the sixth expansion of 2023, Paradox Rift, is already here. The expansion, perhaps not unexpectedly, recycles a few mechanics from Pokemon TCG history – some old, and some that are quite recent. As the final release of the year, Paradox Rift hopes to make a big impact with players and collectors. The past and the future are colliding in Paradox Rift, both thematically and mechanically. And while things may look familiar on the surface, the expansion’s new take on old ideas bodes well for the future of the trading card game.


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Following the introduction of Tera Tera type Pokemon in the Scarlet & Violet base set, Paradox Rift is finally introducing Gen 9’s other major feature: Paradox Pokemon. The likes of Scream Tail and Iron Hands are represented by two new card types, called Ancient and Future, that have unique synergies and abilities that are enhanced and activated by specific items. By building around either Ancient or Future Pokemon, you can increase the power of your deck and gain access to impressively powerful new abilities.

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If you’ve been playing Pokemon for a while, this should sound familiar. Battle Styles were introduced to the TCG in the expansion of the same name back in 2021, and just like Paradox Pokemon, it also introduced two new types of cards: Single Strike and Rapid Strike. Paradox Pokemon are even described similarly, with Ancient Pokemon known for their strong attacks and bulky HP, while Future Pokemon are speedy and efficient.

It seems like Pokemon has found a way to repeat Battle Styles just two years after it was first introduced, but there are some key differences that end up making the two mechanics fundamentally different. Battle Styles were meant to be a deck archetype. The expansion introduced 60 Battle Style cards which eventually increased to a few hundred by the end of the Sword & Shield era – not including the third Fusion Strike style that was later introduced. The vast majority of Battle Style cards were Pokemon, and the philosophy behind the mechanic was that you would fill your deck with same-style ‘Mons that synergize together and benefit from the same items and trainer cards.

SV Paradox Rift

Paradox Pokemon are very different. There are only 20 known Paradox Pokemon so far, and only ten of them appear in Paradox Rift. There are also five Ancient/Future Trainer cards, and most of them have no utility without a Paradox Pokemon in play. Professor Sada’s Vitality, for example, allows you to attach Basic Energy from your discard onto two Ancient Pokemon, then draw 3 cards. That’s an incredibly powerful effect, but only if you’re playing very specific Pokemon.

Paradox Pokemon are in an interesting design space compared to Battle Styles, which gave players a lot of options and flexibility for deck building. Ancient and Future Pokemon work more like a package that you’ll add to other deck archetypes, or if the Pokemon is powerful enough, build your entire deck around. It will be interesting to see how new Trainers improve existing Paradox Pokemon over time. Paradox Pokemon fill a unique niche in Pokemon lore and I’m happy to see the TCG has found a way to give them an appropriately unique mechanic – even if there are shades of Battle Styles within.

The other returning mechanic in Paradox Rift is Technical Machines. While TMs work the same way they did when they were part of the game ten years ago, it’s fun to see how much power has increased over the years. Old TMs would allow you to paralyze a defending Pokemon or remove one of their attached item cards. New TMs allow you to Devolve all of your opponents Pokemon, or pull two Paradox Pokemon directly out of your deck and into your hand. TMs replace your Pokemon’s attack and are discarded at the end of your turn, so they have to provide a lot of value. These provide some interesting utility that will likely catch your opponent off guard, and I expect that’ll do a lot to add variety to the gameplay.

Paradox Rift ETBs-1

At 182 cards, Paradox Rift would be the smallest expansion, ironically, since Battle Styles. That is, if it weren’t for its 84 Secret cards, which end up making it one of the biggest. The extra foil slots added at the beginning of Scarlet & Violet necessitate more secret rares, and while pull rates are up in general, I’m still not enthusiastic about these ratios. There’s incredible artwork in Paradox Rift’s special illustration rares that I’m eager to get my hands on, but I know the chance of pulling any particular card I’m after in Pokemon are slim to none these days. There’s a staggering 49 illustration rare and special illustration rare cards in this expansion, and seven gold cards. I gave up on master sets of Pokemon expansions a long time ago, and I don’t envy anyone that’s still trying to keep up.

It’s fitting that Paradox Rift would dip into the past to find its new mechanics, and while that may signal that the game is spinning its wheels, I’m impressed by its ability to make old ideas feel new again. Seeing how much the game has changed in just the two years since Battle Styles gives me a lot of hope for the future, and Future Pokemon.

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