Pokemon TCG 151 review – A collector’s dream
Pokemon 151 is one of the most anticipated TCG expansions in years, and it lives up to the hype with remarkable artwork, powerful ex versions of classic Pokemon, and a hefty dose of nostalgia.
With three mainline sets now under its belt, it’s time for the first special expansion of the Pokemon Trading Card Game’s Scarlet & Violet era: Pokemon 151.
Unlike Scarlet & Violet’s base set, the Paldea Evolved expansion, and the Obsidian Flames expansion – all of which put the focus on new Paldea region creatures like Koraidon and Miraidon – Pokemon 151 takes trading card collectors back to where it all started: Pokemon Red & Blue’s Kanto region.
Whether you’re a fan of Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle, or you prefer Legendaries like Mewtwo and Zapdos, you’ll find all of your old favorites represented in this special set. Even better, some of them are now powered-up ex cards with massive HP and attack power to play around with.
Ahead of its release on September 22, 2023, The Pokemon Company gave me a chance to preview the new expansion with an Elite Trainer Box, a Booster Bundle, and an Alakazam ex Collection to open.
Gotta collect ‘em all
While most Pokemon TCG expansions feature a mix of Pokemon from different generations, often with multiple cards for the same creature, Pokemon 151 takes a different approach, with each card being in Pokedex order. This means card number one in the set is Bulbasaur, card number two is Ivysaur, and so on.
There are two reasons I love this: First of all, it means everyone’s favorite Kanto region Pokemon is going to be represented here. Secondly, it makes the prospect of collecting a full set and proudly displaying it in a binder even more enticing. As a video game fan first and foremost, this expansion definitely plays into my ‘gotta catch ‘em all’ mindset.
Another thing to love about the Pokemon 151 expansion (or not love, depending on how your bank balance is doing) is the sheer amount of potential chase cards included. With Obsidian Flames, for example, the type-shifted Tera Charizard ex was the obvious standout that everyone wanted. But in Pokemon 151, there are just so many popular Pokemon with stunning full-art variations that it would be almost impossible to choose just one chase card.
My favorite is the Zapdos ex featuring all three Legendary birds soaring through the sky (which I sadly haven’t been able to pull… yet), but I’d be ecstatic to pull any of the illustration rares in this expansion. Take the Poliwhirl that stares down at its reflection on a rainy street at night, or the team of Machoke helping a human move into their new house. If you don’t believe trading cards can be art, you will after seeing these.
Illustration Rares are better than ever
I have a strong feeling the most popular illustration rares are going to be the Kanto starters and their evolutions, all of which tell a loose story when put together. A tiny Charmander stares up at the sky from the bottom of a gorge, while Charizard, now with wings, is able to fly out the top; an adorable Squirtle paddles on a beach, before sinking down into the depths of the ocean as Blastoise; meanwhile Bulbasaur sleeps in a monotone forest, but Venusaur is surrounded by hundreds of vibrant flowers.
As far as pull rates go, I think my haul was pretty decent: I opened 19 packs in total, and found two illustration rares (Squirtle and Psyduck), two ultra rares (Alakazam ex and Bill’s Transfer), and one special illustration rare (Blastoise ex). Of course, this is nowhere near a big enough sample to know what the pull rates are going to be like for everyone else, but it seems like a pretty good sign.
Outside of the illustration rares and ultra rares, the next best things in Pokemon 151 are the ex cards. There are 12 of these in total, and it’s nice to see some less expected Pokemon like Arbok and Golem get the special treatment over more obvious options like Gyarados or Dragonite. These powerful cards, with their huge HP and devastating attacks, are the ones you want to pull if you’re trying to build a game-winning deck.
I have no doubt that I’m going to spend a lot of money on more booster bundles and singles to try and complete the full set. This is easily one of the most FOMO-inspiring and must-have sets in Pokemon TCG history, so be prepared for that when diving in. Hopefully, there will be plenty of stock in the months to come so everyone can get what they want.
Aside from the lovely illustration rares and fan-favorite Legendaries, one of the most notable features of Pokemon 151 expansion is the long-awaited return of Kadabra. The popular Psychic-type creature hasn’t appeared on a Pokemon card in two decades, so there will no doubt be plenty of excitement for its return.
This momentous occasion has even been marked with a lovely Alakazam ex Collection, featuring promo cards of Abra, Kadabra, and Alakazam, as well as four Pokemon 151 booster packs. This is a great option if you just want to add the elusive Kadabra and the rest of its family to your card collection.
What’s in the Pokemon 151 Elite Trainer Box?
As usual, the standout product in this special expansion is the Elite Trainer Box. It includes nine Pokemon 151 booster packs alongside all the extras you’d expect: 65 card sleeves, 45 Energy cards, 6 damage counter dice, 1 coin-flip die, 2 plastic condition markers, a player’s guide, and a Pokemon TCG Live code card.
The collector’s box this set comes in is lovely, featuring a giant Snorlax with minimalistic silhouettes of all 151 Kanto Pokemon in the background. It also comes with a lovely full-art snoozing Snorlax foil promo card to add to your collection, which you won’t find anywhere else.
If it’s just the cards you’re interested in, your best option is a Booster Bundle. These contain six booster packs and nothing else, which means you’re not paying extra for things you don’t want like posters or binders. As a reminder, there are no individual booster packs on sale for this special expansion, so you’re going to need to buy some kind of collection.
The Verdict – 5/5
Pokemon 151 was always going to be an easy win for The Pokemon Company; any time the original Kanto creatures are featured in a product, the hype pretty much builds itself. But I’m happy to report that this special expansion does the OG lineup of Pokemon justice, with plenty of spectacular artwork and all the warm, fuzzy nostalgia you’d expect. Pokemon 151 truly is a collector’s dream.
Dexerto was provided with a Booster Bundle, an Elite Trainer Box, and an Alakazam ex Collection for the purpose of this review.