Why Can’t The Pokemon TCG Make Shiny Pokemon Work Anymore?

If you’re a Pokemon TCG fan, just saying the name Hidden Fates probably gets your heart racing. The 2019 shiny-centric expansion made for one of the most exciting times to be a collector thanks to the Shiny Vault, a mini-set of shiny Pokemon hidden within the normal expansion. The Shiny Vault remains one of the most valuable sets in modern Pokemon, in part because of the way it so successfully captured the spirit of hunting Shiny Pokemon.


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Pokemon has tried to capitalize on our love for Shinies several times since, with the most recent attempt being in Paradox Rift, but it can never seem to find that spark that made Shiny Hunting in Hidden Fates so special.

Shiny Pokemon (as in alternate color schemes for Pokemon, rather than foils) were first introduced to the TCG all the way back in 2002’s Neo Destiny with Shining Charizard and Shining Raichu. They’ve appeared randomly here and there since, usually as promo cards or unique card types like Delta Species, Gold Star, and dual-type Pokemon. In 2017, the Shining Legends expansion brought back Neo Destiny’s Shining Pokemon with eight new cards, kickstarting the modern version of Shinies that Hidden Fates established, which are still featured in the game today.

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While Shinies have been scattered through odd expansions all throughout Pokemon history, Hidden Fates brought more than 80 together all at once. Instead of renaming them or giving them a special type, the Shiny Pokemon in Hidden Fates were simply reprints of recent Pokemon cards, only with each Pokemon’s shiny coloring and a special silver foil background. These Shinies appeared in a variety of rarities, including Rare, Full Art, and Gold secret rares, and they always appeared in the reverse holo spot in a booster pack rather than the rare slot. Any time you found a Shiny, there was still a chance you’d pull a rare from the main Hidden Fates set as well.

Collecting Shiny Pokemon in Hidden Fates was a thrill because there were so many to find and you never knew when one would show up. There were high-profile cards like Charizard GX and Umbreon GX to find, but there were also plenty of normal Shiny Pokemon too. A Shiny Inkay or Wimpod wasn’t a huge hit – they’re worth less than a dollar today – but they were exciting to pull nonetheless – just like when you find a Shiny in the video game. A big part of why the Shinies in Hidden Fates worked so well was because they filled a niche between normal rare and ultra rare cards that were both different and exciting to hunt for. Every Hidden Fates pack was like opening two packs at the same time, and it changed the way you thought about collecting.

SuicuneShinyVault

Shiny Pokemon showed up again almost immediately after the success of Hidden Fates, but in a totally different way. Sword & Shield’s Darkness Ablaze, Champion’s Path, and Vivid Voltage all featured Shiny Pokemon as Gold cards – the rarest card type in every normal expansion. The conflation of hyper rares and Shiny Pokemon ended up canceling out the desirability of both. It’s one thing to include Shiny Gold Pokemon among a Shiny Collection, but chase cards are chaseable in their own way, and overlapping them with Shinies doesn’t help make either type of card more special.

Shining Fates was the 2021 sequel to Hidden Fates, but it isn’t nearly as beloved or highly regarded as the original, despite following the same structure. There’s many opinions about why this happened. Shining Fates’ Shiny Vault has 122 cards – significantly more than Hidden Fates’ 94, but the selection of Pokemon in Shining Fates is heavily skewed towards the new (at the time) Galarian Pokemon. It had a few fan favorites like Charizard, Suicune, and Lapras, but Shiny Vault was almost entirely made up of Gen 8 Pokemon, which fans were not as attached to.

It also launched during the pandemic when Pokemon cards were nearly impossible to find without paying scalper prices, who had already descended on Shining Fates like a plague of locusts in the hope that it’d be another Hidden Fates. By the time it was reprinted, Chilling Reign and Evolving Skies had come along and stole everyone’s time and attention. It may also be the fact that it’s such a direct rehash of Hidden Fates that made it less popular than the original.

The TCG has continued to pump Shiny Pokemon into almost every set since Shining Fates, including them as Gold cards and, starting in Astral Radiance, turning them back into a special card type, this time called Radiant Pokemon. We haven’t seen a Shiny since the start of Scarlet & Violet, but rumors are that a special expansion in January will bring them back once again, starting with a Shiny version of Obsidian Flames’ Tera Charizard ex Special Illustration Rare.

shiny ditto v from the Shiny Vault set

By now, Pokemon should have learned that taking a card people like and reprinting it as a Shiny isn’t enough. A Shiny Pokemon is meant to be an unexpected treat, something surprising that you encounter while you’re hunting for regular Pokemon. Hidden Fates captured that feeling while keeping the ultra rare cards in their own separate category, but Shining Fates proved that that formula isn’t one that can endlessly repeat. If Shinies do return next year, Pokemon will need to find a different approach, one that makes Shinies feel special again and, more importantly, ensures that finding them feels different than pulling any other kind of rare card.

I would like to see Shiny Pokemon seeded throughout regular expansions, without their own numbering or special collection. Just replace common and uncommon Pokemon with a Shiny version on occasion, and allow fans to have the joy of finding something totally unexpected in their packs. Keep the fancy art and foiling for the Special Illustrations and Double Rares, and let Shinies exist as an authentic reflection of their video game counterparts, where they’re neat but ultimately no different from a regular Pokemon. Shinies are one of the coolest things about the Pokemon video games, and it’s a shame to see them wasted in the TCG.

Next: In Pokemon Paradox Rift, Everything Old Is New Again

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