Earlier this month, the Pokémon TCG Live beta was expanded to Germany, so naturally I wanted to give the game a try! I haven’t followed the game much beyond its initial launch in Canada, so I was very curious to see how much has changed since then.

In the weeks since then, I’ve played about 60 games total on Live, and wanted to share my thoughts on the state of the beta. Quick note, I have not tried out the mobile version yet, so everything I talk about is in the context of the desktop version.


The most important part of an online simulator is the gameplay, so let’s talk about it first. A lot has been said and written about the visuals and feel of PTCGL, mostly in a negative sense, and unfortunately my experience so far has been similar.

Visually the game board looks quite unimpressive. It gets the job done, but compared to other online card games, I think most people would agree that it looks rather lifeless. The PTCGL team has acknowledged this and announced an improved game board a while ago, so I don’t think it makes much sense to discuss it until we are able to actually use it in game.

The upcoming PTCGL board

Ignoring how the game looks, for me the most important part is how it plays like. Unfortunately, I think it’s pretty bad in this aspect. My biggest complaint by far are the animations, that make the game feel very slow and unresponsive. Animations by themselves are a good thing, but the way they are implemented in PTCGL severely limits my enjoyment of the game.

In games like Hearthstone or MTG Arena, when a card you play triggers an animation, that animation does not stop you from interacting with the game. You can play down multiple cards from your hand almost simultaneously and any animations will play separately from that. In those games, the animations add to the visuals of the game without hurting the gameplay, which is ideal.

In PTCGL, you cannot interact with the game while an animation is active, instead you have to wait until it’s done. This design decision by itself isn’t a huge issue, and might even make sense for the Pokémon TCG, but it’s not executed well. The animations are slow, much slower than in PTCGO. Even very simple effects take seconds, and something like playing a Marnie starts to feel like it takes an eternity. In addition to the visible animation, they also have some sort of “endlag”, where it looks like the animation is done, but the game is not ready to accept new inputs yet, which makes the gameplay feel even more clunky. What makes it even worse is that when you click on a card too early, while still in “animation mode”, the game will show you the enlarged card picture, which you can only close by clicking the button in the top right corner.

I can’t count how many times I played something like a Scoop Up Net, and then tried to click on my Radiant Greninja to use its Ability, only to be shown the picture, because apparently the Item card’s animation wasn’t fully complete yet. I don’t know if others have the same problem, but I found it extremely annoying. When playing Lunatone Solrock, I had to actively remember to not bench a 2nd Lunatone before using all my Solrock Abilities for the turn, because the difference in animations would otherwise cost me a good 10 seconds every time (when having 1 Lunatone in play, you can click through the Abilities pretty fast, with 2 to select from it makes me want to play a different deck).

I really hope we’ll see big improvements to the speed and responsiveness of PTCGL’s gameplay, because in its current state I honestly haven’t enjoyed it much.

Related to the topic of gameplay, there’s of course the bugs to mention. In my very first game I ever played on PTCGL, I immediately ran into a potentially game-losing bug with Lucky Energy and getting timed out, which left a bad impression. I did not run into that same bug ever since, so I think that was just an unfortunate coincidence, but the game is far from stable in terms of card interactions. I think a certain amount of bugged cards is to be expected from a beta version, but some of them (like the recent Enamorus V / Quick Shooting interaction), make you question how they’re even possible. The current situation is concerning, with new game breaking bugs appearing with seemingly every set release, but given PTCGO also didn’t have a great track record before finally getting it right, I do believe there’s hope that PTCGL will also figure out their card engine eventually.


The game’s next most important aspect, and its biggest difference compared to PTCGO, is the in-game economy, that is how to obtain new cards. The change from trading to crafting is a very controversial one within the community, so I wanted to take a close look into what it takes to build a deck on PTCGL.

There are two in-game currencies for acquiring new cards: Crystals and Credits. Crystals can be used to buy packs and other products in the in-game shop, while Credits can be traded in directly for specific cards, with the price depending on the rarity.

By completing a short daily quest, we receive 60 Crystals, so the possible monthly income is 1800 Crystals. The best deal in the shop is a bundle of 6 packs and 350 Credits, for 1120 Crystals. That means that by playing daily and buying the bundle when possible, we receive on average about 10 packs and 560 Credits per month.

A sample daily quest

Besides the daily quest, there is a Battle Pass with every main expansion. It is reminiscent of PTCGO VS ladder, but much longer. It is split into a regular and a premium part, the latter one costing 600 Crystals to unlock. However, the premium pass includes 540 Crystals on its way to completion, essentially paying for itself, so I’ll include it with the regular one for further calculations.
The pass is split into 50 tiers, all of them requiring 1000 Battle Pass points to unlock. A win on the ladder contributes on average only 100 points, but the daily quests also help in unlocking new tiers, so it seems realistic to finish the Battle Pass within the 3 months that it is active.

The total rewards included in the Battle Pass are 88 packs (76 of the current set, 12 older ones) and 4550 Credits. When combining those values with the ones from the daily quests, the maximum total income per month is approximately 39 packs and 2080 Credits.

One big question is how much the packs help in finishing a specific deck. If we pull a card that we already have 4 or more of in the collection, it is converted into some amount of credits. In the ideal case of having a completed set, every card you pull is immediately turned into Credits. In practice however,  it will be difficult to get even close to that, given how massive sets are these days. We can use the pokedata Dusting Simulator to calculate the amount of credits we would receive when starting to open a new set. It shows that when opening 100 Astral Radiance on PTCGL, the resulting Credits would be about 1000 – 1500. As calculated earlier, it’s possible to get a bit over 100 packs per set cycle (3 months) with regular play, so let’s add 1500 Credits on top of our previous total.

Overall, with daily play and completion of the Battle Pass, the total per main expansion (every 3 months) is whatever we manage to pull from 110-120 packs, plus about 7500 Credits. Depending on the deck, and our luck, the pack pulls could bring us close to building the deck we want, but they could also include next to nothing useful.

A Pokémon V costs about 700 Credits, while a VSTAR costs about 1000, so when combining the pulls and the 7500 Credits, one should be able to complete at least 1 full deck per every set release. This doesn’t sound bad at first, but it didn’t feel great when I played through the first few days of the beta.

I did not migrate my PTCGO account to Live, so I got to experience the game with a fresh collection. The game immediately gives you multiple decent decks that already include many staple cards, which is very nice. I decided to pick up the Blissey V deck and used my initial Credits to craft a Radiant Greninja, as well as a few Trainer cards to improve it. However, Trainer cards cost 100 Credits each, so I ran out very quickly and couldn’t finish my desired Blissey list, even though the missing cards were only Uncommons. Not a big deal for the early ladder meta, but I was a bit surprised, originally assuming only Pokémon V and similar would be difficult to get.

After playing for a while and starting to face better decks, I wanted to switch it up and build something better as well. After completing the first few tiers of the Battle Pass, the game gives you both a Hisuian Zoroark VSTAR deck, and a Arceus VSTAR deck, both of which are very good, so they were the obvious choice. After spending the initial Credits from the now unlocked Premium Battle Pass, I was able to optimize the Zoroark deck, and combine the Arceus deck with the Inteleon engine that is included in one of the other Starter decks. I now have two available competitive decks, which is very nice after only a few days of playing. However, I am also completely out of Credits, and have not crafted a single Pokémon V or above. Almost all the Credits have gone into Trainer cards, while being locked into whatever deck I’ve been given for free.

The metagame on the ladder very much reflects this situation. My by far most played matchup today was the Zoroark mirror, sometimes even facing multiple in a row. While it’s very nice that everyone has access to a tier 1/2 deck for free, I don’t like how difficult it is to build a deck that is not one of the free ones. Maybe it gets better in higher ranks, but in my experience, deck diversity has been non-existent on the ladder, which makes sense in this economy.

For example, to build a Palkia VSTAR deck, I am currently missing over 8500 Credits. Like calculated earlier, it would take me more than 3 whole months of play to acquire that amount of credits! The Battle Pass awards mostly Lost Origin packs, so there aren’t even chances to get lucky with directly opening expensive cards like Palkia or Irida from packs. Essentially, it is impossible for me to play Palkia within the first few months of joining the beta, unless I either migrate my PTCGO account, or buy and redeem hundreds of code cards (check out PoTown Store if you need codes 😉).

Some people might say it’s fine that a free-to-play player doesn’t get a choice in what deck they can use, but I’m not a fan of this at all. I don’t have experience with a lot of other online games, but the one comparison I can make is with Yugioh Master Duel, which uses a very similarly structured economy, with their version of Crystals and Credits.

In Master Duel, players get a lot of free in-game currency when starting their account, enough to build essentially any single deck they want. After that, they can earn enough Crystals for about 80 packs in a month. Their Battle Pass awards mostly Credits and resets every few months. Costs per deck vary a lot, but after having crafted the most important staple cards, it’s generally possible to build new competitive decks very regularly. One very important reason for that is that unlike PTCGL, it allows players to trade-in any card they pull from a pack for credits, not just those that they have more than a playset of. If you pull a high rarity card in MD, it’s never useless, as you can always turn it into Credits.

Konami isn’t exactly known for its generosity with Yugioh players, plus they have an interest in players spending real money on Master Duel, and yet they managed to make a game that gives out more packs and currency than PTCGL while also allowing free “dusting”. 

Overall, to summarize, I’m not a fan of PTCGL’s free-to-play economy. The decks they give out for free are good, but the grind towards building anything beyond those few decks seems to be frustratingly slow, especially when compared with a similar competing game like Master Duel. This is made even worse by the realization that even when spending money on codes, they could end up not helping at all until reaching an extremely high amount (200+ codes per set).

Possible Solutions

In my opinion, daily rewards need to drastically increase for players to feel any real progress towards a new deck. Currently, it takes 19 days (!) of quests to be able to afford the 6 pack bundle in the shop. The bundle includes Credits for not even a single Comfey, and maybe a few useful pulls. In between those, one might unlock a few Battle Pass tiers, but individually those are hardly noticeable either. Someone who migrates over a full collection from PTCGO will likely not have issues with it for a while, but I can’t imagine the current in-game economy being particularly fun from the perspective of someone with a new account.

In addition to better rewards, I wish we had the option to trade in any card we want for Credits. I think this is much less likely to happen than a simple rebalancing of rewards, but it’s the only solution that would completely eliminate the “feels bad” moment of pulling a high rarity card that you know you’ll never use. Under the current system, and with how many realistically unplayable filler cards there are in every set, most packs that get opened in PTCGL are essentially useless. Some cards are designed for collectors, some cards are intentionally simple for learning the game, and a rather small percentage of cards in a set are those that actually see play in tournaments. Live is clearly made for the playing side of the game, but it forces us to collect and keep all those other cards as well, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Lastly, I do not understand why the game gives out only 5 cards per pack, and think it should be changed back to 10. I imagine they want to reduce the amount of credits one can collect with additional copies of Common and Uncommon cards, but this could also be achieved by simply reducing the amount of credits they provide (and cost, spending 100 Credits per Trainer card does not feel great). 10 card packs with less Credits per Common/Uncommon card would be the same for someone with an already big collection, but make it much easier for someone new to get to the point where opening packs becomes useful. It’s like the 5 card pack system is intentionally designed to be unfriendly towards newer players, which seems bizarre to me.


The by far most popular argument in favor of the game economy I’ve heard is the existance of Celebrations. For those of you who don’t know, all of the cards in the set count as Rares and above on Live, and the set is very small, so rather easy to complete. This makes it so that redeeming Celebrations codes, especially when trading into a complete set on PTCGO first and then migrating, results in a lot of Credits. So many that this one trick can set up an account for years to come. However, I don’t think we should rely on this one pack to carry the whole in-game economy. I doubt this was an intended interaction, and could be patched out at any time. For now, the trick is probably somewhat safe because of all the backslash the game has already received, but it still seems a bit silly to call the game generous because of something that might have been an oversight.

On PTCGO, it is possible to build a huge collection from nothing with the trading system, however it is widely considered to not be intuitive or beginner friendly. Live is supposed to do it better, not rely on every new player watching a 10 minute youtube video on how to best exploit the system, which is what the Celebrations argument comes down to in my opinion.

Deck Editor

The last big part of the game is the deck manager, and once again, I don’t think PTCGL does a good job here.

The most striking issue for me is the lack of a full deck view. We all know that TCG players love to lay out their deck and look at it, especially when in the process of deck building. Not only that, content creators need this option when wanting to present a deck to their audience. The lack of this option almost makes me question whether the PTCGL team includes anyone that actually plays a card game in their free time.

Besides this one obvious flaw, the filter options are lacking in comparison to PTCGO’s deck builder, and I find it confusing how it lists all prints of a specific card as one, making it harder to select the one you want. I also miss the Win/Loss counter for every deck, which is a really nice extra that PTCGO provides.

Other than those issues, the deck editor is ok, and compared to the rest of the game, it isn’t as important anyway, so I don’t think it’s worth complaing much about.


I think PTCGL has a long way to go before it’s ready to leave the beta. While playing the game, and writing this review, I’ve honestly struggled to come up with positive things to say about it.

Just yesterday, when I tried to play a few more games before finishing writing, I couldn’t find a game for over 20 minutes and eventually gave up. I don’t know whether that’s a matchmaking bug, or if there really was no one else looking for a game, but I think this situation just about describes the state of the game. If PTCGO wasn’t a thing, and Live was our first automated PTCG simulator, I’m sure I’d be happy about its existence, but it’s not, so it just feels like a downgrade at this point.

PTCGO is far from perfect itself, but in my opinion the game looks better, has smoother and more responsive gameplay, and includes more game modes like Events and Expanded. Trying out the free-to-play economy on Live even made me miss the trading system, despite its terrible loading times and abundance of bad trade offers.

The only reason I see for currently playing on Live instead of Online is the Celebrations trick for unlocking decks (reminder: as a desktop-only player). Personally, I’ll be going back to playing mainly PTCGO until at least the next big PTCGL update.

Let me know your thoughts on the game! Am I being too harsh with it? I really want PTCGL to become the best it can, so I’m always happy to discuss this topic!