Standard vs Expanded – The formats of Pokémon TCG

Standard vs Expanded Format

Yo mates! Welcome to my first blog article on the TCG Park website. My name is ZapdosTCG, and together we’ll take a look into the differences between the Standard and the Expanded format.

Okay, so I’ve been playing the game competitively for more than 12 years now, which means I have played with all of the cards in both formats. This will be really useful to talk about both formats. Let’s start with the classic ‘Standard’ format first.

What is the Standard format?

The Standard format is the most common and is used in most major tournaments (including the World Championships). Sword and Shield-Onwards is the current Standard format. That means you can use cards from the Sword and Shield set all the way up to the most recent set. Keep in mind that a set becomes tournament legal two weeks after it is officially released. This means that the upcoming set of Brilliant Stars will be legal for use in official Pokemon TCG tournaments on March 11th (because Brilliant Stars comes out on February 25th).

The current Standard format has quite a fantastic array of sets available to make decks with right now (Sword and Shield, Rebel Clash, Darkness Ablaze, Champion’s Path, Vivid Voltage, Battle Styles, Chilling Reign, Evolving Skies, Fusion Strike). Just remember that the Standard format has a yearly rotation that happens during the month of August. 

Most of the time, the rotation happens after the World Championships. But in 2019, they rotated it before the Worlds Championship, which made things pretty interesting!

What is a Rotation?

Well, a rotation means that a couple of sets will no longer be legal to play in the ‘Standard‘ format. So they actually exclude a couple of sets to make the format fresher. My prediction for this year’s rotation will be Battle Styles-Onwards. Meaning Sword and Shield, Rebel Clash, Darkness Ablaze, Champion’s Path, and Vivid Voltage will be rotated out of the Standard format. Also, remember that certain reprints of cards also rotate, for example, Quick Ball. We saw a reprint in the Fusion Strike set, but it has the same regulation mark ‘D’ on the bottom left corner. So the upcoming rotation will remove the ‘D’ block of cards.

Suppose you are a new player. I recommend focusing on the Standard format because the Standard Format is used for Worlds and 70% of the Regionals tournaments. In Europe, only 1 or 2 regional tournaments focus on the “Expanded” format, which means that the Standard format is more common. Expanded is a bit more common in the US, but Standard still dominates the world.

Also, as a side note, there are currently no cards banned from tournament play in the Standard format!

What is the Expanded format?

Well, the Expanded format is pretty much Black and White-Onwards. Meaning you can use cards from the Black and White base (released in 2011) through the latest Pokemon TCG Expansion (currently Fusion Strike). So a massive collection of over ten years worth of sets can be used in this format. There is no yearly Rotation in the Expanded format, meaning that all cards are playable from Black and White-Onwards.

A list of Banned Pokemon cards is updated whenever a new set is released. The main reason for this list is that some Toxic Broken combinations are possible in this format, and they must balance it with a banned list.

You can see all the current Banned Pokemon cards here:

I played competitively during the Black and White era as well. Some genuinely fantastic cards will almost certainly never see a reprint in Standard format because they were too powerful!

Think about Double Colorless Energy will see a nerfed reprint in Brilliant Stars with Double Turbo Energy. Or how about Float Stone, who saw a nerfed version with Air Balloon.

As you can see, the Expanded format has access to far more powerful cards, which is great because if you want to mix things up, you can learn both Standard and Expanded formats.

Will Expanded format ever get a rotation?

Well, I probably don’t think so, as the power creep makes older cards less powerful. On the other hand, the Items and Supporters in Expanded are insanely good, so if there’s ever a broken combo, I think they will Ban cards instead.


That’s it for my first of many articles for the TCG Park. Which format do you prefer, standard or expanded? Will Expanded ever outnumber Standard in popularity? Most likely not because they want to make the game more accessible to new players. If you want to learn more about the Pokemon TCG, check out my channel:

I focus on both Standard and the Expanded format so feel free to hop by. I hope you enjoyed this article and see you all next time!


Intro to the Pokemon TCG


Brilliant Stars Set Review

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