Buying Cards for Pokémon TCG Online

I started playing the Pokémon TCG Online game earlier this year after watching The Professor’s video comparing the online versions of the Pokémon TCG with the Magic: The Gathering TCG. The Pokémon TCG is a great example of a product that is amazing in large part because it doesn’t repeat the many mistakes that the online versions of other collectible card games that are also available as traditional cardboard trading cards.

First, the game is completely free and has a ton of content that can be played for free. I spent dozens of hours playing the game meaningfully without spending a single penny. Second, the online version of the game is largely identical to the physical card game. All of the mechanics, cards, etc. are the same between the two. That might sound like a “no duh” moment, but Magic: The Gathering does not meet this most basic of minimum requirements.

And finally, the Pokémon TCG includes an activation code with every physical product that lets the player activate a similar product in the online game. For constructed deck products, the code gives you an identical constructed deck in the online game. For general booster packs, there is a code that unlocks a booster pack of the same type in the online game (the online packs contents are randomly generated, however, so the exact cards in the physical pact are not reproduced exactly).

This is awesome, and also creates an aftermarket for the online codes. A Pokémon TCG booster pack costs in the $3-4 range depending on the source. The online activation codes sell for a serious discount online. Depending on the set, you can buy the code cards in bulk for 12 to 19 cents apiece on Ebay.

In one of the few drawbacks in the way that the online codes are handled, there is no scratch off or other covering for the online code–it is simply printed plain as day on the code card. So the potential for fraud is always going to be there in buying the codes.

After searching around on various Pokémon TCG forums on the Internet looking to balance price with risk, I settled upon to purchase codes from. PTCGO rests solidly in the middle of the road as far as costs are concerned. Codes for recent set releases go for around 40 cents apiece, although the site has regular daily sales that sees those fall to around 33 cents apiece.

I have purchased several hundred codes from the site so far, and have been very pleased with the process. PTCGO sends the codes via email just a few seconds after the payment goes through. I experienced a single issue with a code not validating, and the company took care of that within a few minutes.

The only drawback to PTCGO is that they only accept payment via a PayPal account. So if you don’t have or don’t want a PayPal account, you’ll have to go elsewhere.

Heartstone Deck Tracker

Hearthstone Deck Tracker is a free, open source utility that runs alongside Blizzard’s online collectible card game, Hearthstone.

The software adds an overlay while you’re playing Hearthstone that shows:

  • what cards you’ve drawn from your deck, which are still left, and draw chances
  • which cards your opponent has played, deckcount and draw chances

Hearthstone Deck Tracker Overlay

When you’re not actually in-game, the software adds a Deck Manager that lets you import decks from various websites and then export those decks directly to Hearthstone. This lets users get around Hearthstone’s ridiculous 9 deck limit. The Deck Manager has a ton of options including the ability to assign custom tags to decks, add notes, create screenshots and share decks as XML.

Finally, Hearthstone Deck Tracker has a fascinating analytics component. While playing with the overlay enabled, the software can keep track of each game and then produce statistics for each deck to show a win/loss rate vs. particular classes, opponents, game modes, etc.


Hearthstone Deck Tracker - Win/Loss Stats


Finally, Hearthstone Deck Tracker allows users to replay specific games.

Hearthstone Deck Tracker - Replays



ChessHeads – An Attempt to Cross Chess with CCGs

ChessHeads is an attempt to cross chess with a collectible card game. There are 121 different cards that are randomly inserted into packs, although a complete set of all 121 cards can also be purchased for $99 at the time of this writing.

ChessHeads first came out around 2004-2005, and unfortunately there just aren’t many reviews out there about how well it actually plays. David Weinstock posted an overview of the game on back in April 2005 that noted,

So, what’s new with ChessHeads? Two big things, and one of them will be more important to you than the other. Which one will vary by reader. One is a meta-game issue: ChessHeads is a collectible game, and the cards in each box are random. There are no rarity levels; each card is as likely to appear as the next. The other is an in-game mechanic: card effects have to be paid for with “Entigy” (which is just “energy” with some game-world flavor). The usual way to gain Entigy is by capturing pieces.

The addition of Entigy means a game of ChessHeads often comes out of the gate very much like orthochess (that is, “regular” Western chess) as the players must make some captures or play some resource cards before they can start throwing around the board-shattering effects. It is not enough simply to have the perfect card in your hand, you also have to pay for it when you play it.

I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has actually played ChessHeads or if anyone knows of any formal reviews of the game.

Sample ChessHeads cards taken from the ChessHeads website

Upper Deck Loses World of Warcraft TCG License

In February, Blizzard and Upper Deck both issued statements surrounding the World of Warcraft: Trading Card Game which Upper Deck had published since its release in 2006.

Coincidentally, the announcement came shortly after Upper Deck reached a settlement with Konami over the Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card game. Until December 2008, Upper Deck had been the distributor of that game outside of Asia. But Upper Deck got caught printing hundreds of thousands of counterfeit cards.

Konami pulled no punches in its press release announcing the settlement,

“This entire situation came as a huge shock to us. As a company that has based their entire business model on producing authentic entertainment and sports licensed products, Upper Deck went against their very core beliefs by counterfeiting Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG Cards,” commented KDE’s Vice President of Card Business Yumi Hoashi.  “It was very disheartening to learn that a trusted business partner would take these actions to dupe us and the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG community.”

The litigation began in October 2008, when KDE discovered that counterfeit cards from the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG were being sold in Toys “R” Us stores by a sub-distributor for Upper Deck.  KDE filed suit, and the sub-distributor told KDE that the counterfeit cards were supplied by Upper Deck.

“As a leading company in this card industry, Upper Deck should have known more than well that counterfeit activities would irreparably harm the trust of Duelists and the integrity of the Yu-Gi-Oh! brand,” said KDE’s Hoashi. Upper Deck initially denied those charges and issued press releases announcing that any suggestion that Upper Deck would be involved in counterfeiting activity is “absurd.”

Failing to own up to its actions, Upper Deck sent out a press release on January 29, 2010 stating its satisfaction with the settlement and how the judge ruled against KDE in several areas.  The ruling that United States District Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank made on December 23, 2009 was simple. She ruled that Upper Deck violated trademark, copyright and unfair competition laws by counterfeiting Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG cards.

Blizzard didn’t cite the Konami dispute as its reason for dropping Upper Deck, but certainly any company interested in maintaining its brand would want to think twice (or three or four times) before doing business with Upper Deck after its behavior with the Yu-Gi-Oh! game.

The loss of the license also extends to the World of Warcraft collectible miniatures game.