The 15 best Pokemon cards ever, ranked from 1999 Base Set to Scarlet & Violet
The Pokemon Company has released thousands of cards for the Pokemon TCG since 1996, with some of the best scattered across various expansions throughout the years. With the TCG entering its next era with Scarlet & Violet, we’ve boiled the entire catalog down and ranked the 15 best Pokemon cards of all time.
Whether you’re a collector, casual player, or competitive trainer, the Pokemon TCG offers many cards fitting every niche. And as one of the longest-running deck-building card-battling games, thousands of cards range from worthless cardboard rectangles to incredibly rare and expensive shiny collector’s pieces.
But a card’s market value isn’t the only thing that makes it worth collecting. And in recent expansions like Pokemon Scarlet & Violet, the artwork for some of the Full Art and Secret Rare cards are far more visually appealing than 20-year-old cards worth thousands of dollars.
Some cards are highly sought after because of their power in battle or how they defined the meta during their era of the TCG. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the top 15 best Pokemon cards of all time.
Top 15 best Pokemon cards in the world
15. Illustrator Pikachu (Most Expensive Pokemon card)
Coming in at number 15 is the most expensive Pokemon card ever sold: Illustrator Pikachu. Making a “best Pokemon card” list would be impossible without mentioning the one-of-a-kind PSA 10 Illustrator Pikachu card that influencer Logan Paul spent $6 million to acquire.
Even outside of a Gem Mint score, Illustrator Pikachu is the rarest card in existence, with only 39 being distributed following a series of contests in the last 1990s.
14. 1st Edition Charizard Shadowless Base Set (1999)
The first-ever holographic Charizard card is considered the Michael Jordan of Pokemon cards. It’s not very flashy by today’s standards, but many hailed it as the greatest Pokemon Card of all time. This is likely due to nostalgia and rarity, and it features one of the most popular Pokemon.
The shadowless Charizard from the 1999 Pokemon base set sits low on this list because it’s not easily obtained without hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even then, it’s arguably a rather underwhelming card. Nonetheless, this card’s hype has earned it a spot among the greatest of all time.
13. Shaymin EX Full Art (Meta Defining Pokemon card)
During each new era of the Pokemon TCG, a few cards will veer their heads to dominate the meta. However, there hasn’t been a card as meta-defining as Shaymin EX during the era of Roaring Skies. It allowed players to fill their hands with up to six cards when played, thanks to its ability to give players plenty of options.
And the full-art version of the card isn’t bad, either. It’s not nearly as artistic or visually interesting as cards further down the list, but the sky forme stands proudly against a blue background, striking fear into the opposing trainer.
12. M Mewtwo EX (Highest damage output)
Many trainers attribute Mega Mewtwo EX from the X&Y BREAKthrough expansion to be one of the strongest cards ever to grace the Pokemon TCG. This is thanks to its incredibly powerful move Psychic Infinity.
This attack does 10 damage plus 30 more damage times the amount of energy both you and your opponent have attached to their active Pokemon. And to make matters worse (for your opponents), the damage dealt isn’t affected by Weakness. With the right amount of energy, M Mewtwo EX could solo teams in the blink of an eye.
11. Arceus, Dialga, & Palkia GX (Cosmic Eclipse)
The Sun & Moon expansions offered quite a few “Team Up” cards which feature two or more Pokemon in a single card. Not just in the artwork, but the card itself was actually representative of two Pokemon which led to some really interesting combinations and incredible artwork.
But one of the greatest cards to come out of this era of teamwork came from the final Sun & Moon set Cosmic Eclipse. The trio card Arceus, Dialga, & Palkia GX featured the gods of the Pokemon universe. And while this Pokemon card wasn’t the dominating force players would expect from a trio of gods, it’s still one of the best Sun & Moon Team-Ups.
10. Gengar VMAX Alternate Art Secret (Fusion Strike)
You may notice that the top 10 of this list are all from the Sword & Shield era of the Pokemon TCG and onward, and that’s not by mistake. Since the start of 2020, The Pokemon Company has produced some of the highest-quality cards to date, and each set has contained multiple stunning collector’s pieces.
To kick off the top 10, we have Gengard VMAX’s Secret Alt Art from the Fusion Strike set. Not only is this card beautifully illustrated, but it also deals a devastating amount of damage. It’s no wonder why this card clocks in at just under $200 making it the most expensive Pokemon card from the Fusion Strike set.
9. Tyranitar V Alternate Full Art (Battle Styles)
Tyranitar is one of the most daunting Pokemon outside of the TCG, and it’s seen its fair share of play inside the competitive card game as well. However, its Battle Styles alt full art card shows a different side of the gentle giant.
Slumbering among piles of trash and dirty dishes, this napping behemoth quickly became one of the most hunted cards in the set. But this powerful Pokemon card also packed a huge punch, able to deal massive damage in a single blow at the expense of a few cards.
8. Mew VMAX Alternate Art Secret (Fusion Strike)
Taking another stop in the land of Fusion Strike, Mew VMAX’s secret alt art is a stunning card both visually and in terms of its abilities. This is not to be confused with the five other Mew cards in the set, one of which has arguably a better alt art.
The Mew VMAX is equipped with two of the most ludicrous moves in the TCG. Cross Fusion Strike allows Mew to choose one attack from the trainer’s benched Fusion Strike Pokemon and use it as its own. And Max Miracle deals 130 damage that isn’t affected by any effects on the opponent’s active Pokemon. It may not be the most expensive card, but it is a force to be reckoned with.
You can purchase packs of Fusion Strike here (via Amazon).
7. Charizard VSTAR (Ultra Premium Collectors Box Promo)/ Mewtwo VSTAR (Crown Zenith)
Here is a Charizard that feels worthy of a spot on any “best Pokemon card” list. Charizard VSTAR tells a phenomenal story of one of the most beloved Pokemon battling against the strongest of Pokemon. This battle can also be seen from Mewtwo’s perspective in the new Crown Zenith set.
The Mewtwo VSTAR is the more appealing of the two, but its rarity makes it quite hard to pull and more expensive to purchase than the Charizard VSTAR. Collectors can pay $119 to purchase the Charizard Ultra Premium collectors box to get three incredible Charizard cards, or they can pick up the VSTAR on its own for around $20.
You can purchase the Charizard Ultra Premium Collection here (via Amazon).
6. Origin Forme Palkia V Alternate Full Art (Astral Radiance)
The Origin Forme Palkia V alt art card is one of many recent cards that takes the focus off of the featured Pokemon in order to showcase the incredible artwork. This 2.4 x 3.4-inch masterpiece would be better suited as a framed poster or a full page in an art book. Origin Forme Palkia fits perfectly among the best Pokemon cards in recent history.
This card is top-tier design-wise and is a great way to introduce a new Pokemon (or in this case, a new forme) to the TCG. And its attack Hydro Break deals a staggering 200 damage at the expense of being unable to attack the next turn.
Hunt this work of art by purchasing Astral Radiance packs here (via Amazon).
5. Umbreon VMAX Alternate Art Secret (Evolving Skies)
One of the most sought-after cards at the peak of the Pokemon TCG’s online popularity was Umbreon VMAX’s secret alt art. The giant Eeveelution sits perched atop a building reaching out for the moon in one of the most poetic artworks to come out of the Pokemon TCG. It’s hailed as the best Pokemon card in Evolving Skies.
And for those who are brave enough to take this miraculous card out for a stroll on the battlefield, its ability and attack are pretty nasty. Dark Signal allows the player to switch their opponent’s active player for one on its bench, and Max Darkness can follow up with a powerful 160 damage.
It’s not too late to chase this Umbreon by puchasing packs of Evolving Skies here (via Amazon).
4. Regidrago V Alternate Full Art (Silver Tempest)
At the time of writing, the Pokemon TCG’s Silver Tempest expansion hasn’t been released yet, but we’ve already been given a glimpse of one of the alt art cards that awaits players. Regidrago V easily secures a spot near the top of this list. Once again, a fierce Legendary Pokemon is pictured in a serene setting just chilling among the ruins as the Legendary bird Lugia soars by the background.
And as per usual, the most decadent cards are adorned with some of the best abilities. Celestial Roar has the player discard the top three cards from their deck, but if any of those three are energy they are automatically attached to Regidrago. And a move like Dragon Laser… that speaks for itself.
Unearth Regidrago by purchasing Silver Tempest packs here (via Amazon).
3. Deoxys VMAX Alternate Art Secret (Crown Zenith)
When looking at the entire lineup of alternate artworks from the Crown Zenith set, it’s incredibly difficult to limit the number of cards from that set on this list. There are at least 10 cards from Crown Zenith that could easily make this list. But there’s one card that stands above the rest- and it’s out of this world.
Deoxys VMAX Alternate Art Secret is the best Pokemon Card from the Crown Zenith set. The extraterrestrial Pokemon is being abducted by Orbeetle with a backdrop that feels straight out of a psychedelic sci-fi movie. It’s gorgeous. It’s stunning. And it is well worth the chase.
2. Giratina V Alternate Full Art (Lost Origin)
I mean, look at this thing. It wouldn’t be surprising if players were in the midst of the greatest era of Pokemon card designs seeing what the most recent set – Lost Origins – has to offer. The Giratina V alternate full art is, without a doubt, the best single Pokemon Card ever printed. You could call Giratina V the Ferrari of Pokemon cards.
Is it the strongest card ever? No, but it does have an incredible kit that makes the god of antimatter one formidable foe. Abyss Seeker allows the player to look at the top four cards on their deck and keep two in their hand, while Shred is a pretty self-explanatory move that deals 160 unmitigated damage.
Begin your hunt for Giratina by purchasing Lost Origin packs here (via Amazon).
1. Creation Trio & Arceus VSTAR Ultra Rare Alternative Arts (VSTAR Universe)
After the Giratina V Alternate Full Art was revealed, we didn’t expect it to be dethroned so soon. But as more cards for the upcoming VSTAR Universe set are revealed, the top spot now belongs to not one but four cards.
If you ever wondered what it would feel like to hold a masterful piece of art in your hand, look no further. The Origin Forme Palkie, Origin Forme Dialga, Giratina, and Arceus VSTAR Ultra Rare cards from VSTAR Universe are the most gorgeous Pokemon cards ever printed. It’s almost as if you’re looking at renaissance paintings that belong in a museum.
They are also the final four cards to release during the Sword & Shield era of the Pokemon TCG, and they are the perfect way to end a breathtaking run of cards.
Chase these four cards by purchasing Crown Zenith packs here (via Amazon).
We know what you’re thinking. “Where are the Scarlet & Violet Base Set cards?” We felt that, while the set does offer some incredibly stunning cards, none of them were quite good enough to knock anything off our top 15.
Now that you’ve tasted what awaits you in the world of Pokemon card collecting check out the best Pokemon card packs to buy when building your collections.
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