What’s up guys, it’s Nico again. For about a month now, I’ve been thinking a lot about things to do within the Pokémon Trading Card Game that don’t necessarily involve playing the Standard ladder on PTCGO because Evolving Skies was still on the horizon, as well as the 2022 rotation on 9月 10. With those two major dates in mind, I didn’t really feel like playing ladder games with Shadow Rider Calyrex, Ice Rider Calyrex or Urshifu, because that was something that I’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks anyway, and it’s not like the majority of those games are particularly interesting.

With the Atlas POG tournament being Standard with Evolving Skies, no Team Challenge on the horizon, and no new Player’s Cup announced, I was looking for other ways to stay in touch with the game and keep playing. I doubt that I’m the only one that felt somewhat bored in this kind of period, which usually would’ve been the time of the year where you would playtest for the World Championships. 
This article will focus on different ways to play the Pokémon TCG besides the Standard format and provide lists for customs formats as a starting point for players trying to get into them. That being said, if you’re missing any PTCGO codes for the game, feel free to pick up some Pokemon TCG online codes here at PTCGO Store! 

Try cards before they rotate. 

If you still want to play the ladder (for example, to still finish it for rewards, or simply because it quickly gives you opponents to play against), I encourage you to play with cards that will rotate very soon. Cards like Arceus & Dialga & Palkia GX or Lucario & Melmetal GX haven’t enjoyed the best reputation in the past year, but the サン & ムーン cycle definitely offers a lot of other cards that use somewhat unique mechanics for their attacks or abilities; most prominently GX attacks. GX attacks were never meant to be attacks you use multiple times across one game, so making use of those cards right before they rotate is definitely something I’ve enjoyed. My favorite way to make use of this was the attack of Alolan Sandslash GX. In a format with Inteleon from Chilling Reign, it’s very easy to set up damage counters on your opponent’s board in order to eventually go for a huge (and very satisfying) Spiky Storm GX attack, sweep your opponent’s board, and take multiple prizes in one turn. Another interaction that I’ve been enjoying a lot, that’s also more meta, is Galarian Moltres V paired with Weavile Gx . I’m a really big fan of being able to have consistent energy acceleration that’s useable for all your attackers, so I would’ve really hoped to get a little more out of the synergy of those two. 

Weavile Gx 

Expanded ladder 

Another option for laddering is to dive into the giant card pool that the Expanded format offers. With some sets going back 11 years ago and still incorporating the current Standard, Expanded is the biggest card pool ever for a format TPCi officially supports. If you enjoy deckbuilding with almost no restrictions, Expanded offers basically an infinite amount of creativity and content. Sadly, just like any other format in other card games that involves a giant card pool, Expanded has created some unhealthy interaction across the years which can sometimes make it hard to play on the Expanded ladder. Facing the notorious Latios donk that tries to beat you by going first and knocking out your only basic Pokémon has become more and more popular on the ladder by people trying to get through the versus rewards quickly. Similar to this, there’s also a Honchkrow Gx  attack with the goal to take away your playable cards with the very fitting attack called Unfair GX and afterward removes your energies with Team Flare Grunt and Crushing Hammer to prevent you from playing the game. If you can look past these two pokemon online decks and the occasional Arceus & Dialga & Palkia GX with Zacian V, Expanded offers a lot of creativity and unique decks.

Honchkrow Gx 

Legacy ladder 

The last legitimate ladder option (if we ignore the theme deck ladder that doesn’t really offer a lot of variety) is the Legacy ladder . Legacy refers to the format the includes all sets from Heartgold & Soulsilver up to Black & White Legendary Treasures. For players that previously only played standard, this format will feel very different. One of the major issues of Legacy is that it’s very expensive to play the real good decks, and even some of the staples like Smeragle from Undaunted go for about 30 packs. One very cheap deck (that doesn’t involve playing a control/lock deck) is Weavil/Exeggcute, which doesn’t use a lot of really expensive cards.


Pokémon - 17 

4 Sableye DEX 62 
4 Sneasel UD 68 
4 Weavile PLF 66 
4 Exeggcute PLF 4 
1 Mr. Mime PLF 47 

Trainer Cards - 34 

1 Switch HS 102 
1 Computer Search BCR 137 
4 Professor Oak's New Theory HS 101 
2 Super Rod NVI 95 
1 Lost Remover CL 80 
1 Pokémon Reversal HS 99 
1 Silver Bangle PLB 88 
4 Dark Patch DEX 93 
4 Ultra Ball FCO 113 
2 Random Receiver DEX 99 
4 Professor Juniper BLW 101 
1 Tool Scrapper DRX 116 
4 Level Ball NXD 89 
4 Junk Arm TM 87 

Energy - 9 

9 Darkness Energy Energy 7 

Weavile  Exeggcute 

Commander format 

The Commander format  is a custom format for Pokémon that people have come up with during the pandemic. The rules might seem a little much at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s actually pretty easy to understand. The format is a singleton format, which means that you’re only allowed to have one copy of a card in your deck, including cards like Prof. Juniper and Prof. Research, Lysandre, and Bosse’s Orders as Prof. Oaks New Theory and Cynthia. Besides the Cynthia Oak one, you wouldn’t be able to use both cards in the same deck on PTCGO anyways, the last one is to be kept in mind, though, since that ruling isn’t put into PTCGO. The biggest difference for the Commander singleton compared to a regular singleton is that you are allowed to play four Pokémon with the same name, as long as it’s not the same cards or a reprint. For example, you’d be able to run Charmander from Vivid Voltage, Detective Pikachu, Team Up, and Burning Shadows, the same goes for Charmeleon and Charizard.

The next thing to keep in mind for deckbuilding is the choice of a “Commander” and a “Captain”. Every deck gets the choice of one Commander Pokémon, which is either an EX, GX or V Pokémon. Most tournaments exclude Tag Teams, VMAX, and Megas from the choice of Commanders. The captain is a Prism Star or Amazing Rare, both of which also aren’t allowed outside of this special rule. Those are basically the “standard” rules for Pokémon Commander tournaments, but considering the massive card pool of PTCGO, which potentially unhealthy, unfun, or game-breaking combinations of cards, most of them include a banned list, so keep an eye out for that. Ultra beasts and Pokémon with Ancient Traits are also often taken off the list of available cards as a whole. 
I’ve personally really enjoyed Greninja  in that format, this is the most recent list:


Pokemon - 17 

1 Froakie BKP 38 
1 Froakie FLI 21 
1 Froakie FLI 22 
1 Froakie UNB 51 
1 Frogadier XY 40 
1 Frogadier BKP 39 
1 Frogadier FLI 23 
1 Frogadier UNB 52 
1 Greninja PR-XY 162 
1 Greninja XY 41 
1 Greninja BKP 40 
1 Greninja DET 9 
1 Greninja BREAK BKP 41 
1 Staryu BKP 25 
1 Starmie EVO 31 
1 Ditto Prism Star LOT 154 
1 Espeon-EX BKP 52 

Trainer Cards - 33  

1 Sonia CPA 65 
1 Wally GEN RC27 
1 Skyla RCL 166 
1 Professor Oak's New Theory CL 83 
1 Tate & Liza CES 148 
1 Colress PLS 118 
1 センパイとコウハイPRC 141
1 Guzma BUS 115 
1 Twins TM 89 
1 N FCO 105 
1 Marnie CPA 56 
1 Boss's Orders RCL 154
1 Pokémon Breeder's Nurturing DAA  166
1 Computer Search BCR 137 
1 Rescue Stretcher GRI 130 
1 Evolution Incense SSH 163 
1 Ordinary Rod SSH 171 
1 Super Rod BKT 149 
1 Nest Ball SUM 123 
1 Quick Ball SSH 179 
1 Evosoda GEN 62 
1 Ultra Ball SLG 68 
1 Rare Candy SSH 180 
1 Dive Ball PRC 125 
1 Repeat Ball PRC 136 
1 VS Seeker PHF 109 
1 レベルボール AOR 76
1 Junk Arm TM 87 
1 Professor's Letter BKT 146 
1 Muscle Band XY 121 
1 Brooklet Hill GRI 120 
1 Rough Seas PRC 137 
1 Training Court RCL 169 

Energy - 10 

9 Water Energy 3 
1 Splash Energy BKP 113 

Greninja  Greninja 

Gym leader challenge format 

The Gym Leader format (or short GLC) was very recently invented and popularized by Andrew Mahone from the YouTube and Twitch channel TrickyGym. This unique format has the player choose one specific typing that they become the “Gym leader” of. Much like the Commander format, this format is a singleton format that takes away all Rule Box Pokémon, but this time you have no extra ruling that allows the player to use any of them. You also won’t get to pick multiple copies of the same Pokémon, which makes deckbuilding very different from the Commander format because you usually have to focus much more around your strategy as a whole compared to Commander, where your strategy mostly builds around your Commander of choice and the Pokémon that support it. You also have to keep in mind that the GLC uses the Expanded card pool from Black & White onwards, instead of every card available on PTCGO, but (besides the obvious restriction of Rule Box Pokémon) doesn’t ban any specific card, making you completely free to choose any card you want.

I don’t think any of the two formats is particularly better or more interesting than the other one, because both of them have unique ways to them, so I’d definitely encourage you to give both of them a try because you might very well enjoy both of them. 
There are a bunch of types/archetypes that are considered good, and I’ve been liking Psychic a lot recently because you get two really good type-specific search cards in Fog Crystal and Mysterious Treasure, as well as a broken Stadium in Dimension Valley.


Pokémon - 16 

1 Blacephalon CEC 104 
1 Deoxys CES 67 
1 Duskull CEC 83 
1 Galarian Articuno EVS 63 
1 Giratina LOT 97 
1 Hoopa STS 51
1 Inkay FLI 50 
1 Koffing UNB 73 
1 Marshadow SLG 45
1 Mew UNB 76 
1 Tapu Lele PR-SM 45
1 Wobbuffet PHF 36 
1 Dusclops BUS 52 
1 Malamar FLI 51 
1 Weezing UNB 74 
1 Dusknoir BCR 63 

Trainer Cards - 32 

1 Rescue Stretcher BUS 165 
1 Muscle Band XY 121 
1 Mysterious Treasure FLI 113 
1 Ball Guy SHF 57 
1 Cynthia & Caitlin CEC 228 
1 Sonia RCL 192 
1 Professor Juniper PLF 116 
1 Evolution Incense SSH 163 
1 Ordinary Rod SSH 171 
1 Lusamine UPR 153 
1 Dimension Valley PHF 93 
1 Lysandre's Trump Card PHF 118 
1 Marnie SSH 200 
1 Colress PLS 135 
1 Hard Charm XY 119 
1 Nest Ball SUM 123 
1 Ultra Ball SUM 161 
1 Battle Compressor Team Flare Gear PHF 92 
1 Cynthia UPR 119 
1 センパイとコウハイPRC 141
1 Boss's Orders RCL 189
1 Guzma BUS 115 
1 Air Balloon SSH 156 
1 Level Ball BST 129 
1 Float Stone PLF 99 
1 Scoop Up Net RCL 165 
1 Brigette BKT 161 
1 N NVI 101 
1 パラレルシティ BKT 145
1 Fog Crystal CRE 140 
1 Quick Ball SSH 216 
1 VS Seeker PHF 109 

Energy - 12 

11 Psychic Energy SWSHEnergy 5 
1 Horror Psychic Energy RCL 172 
Dusknoir  Malamar 

Old Formats 

My personal favorite to do when the Standard format is particularly interesting is taking a look at older formats to not only see how Pokémon has changed across all those years, but also to revisit some formats that I’ve personally played years ago when I wasn’t able to fully appreciate them, or simply wasn’t good enough yet to be able to play them properly. Especially recently, I’ve been talking a lot to my friend Robin Schulz, who a lot of you might know as the 2018 World Champion, about formats in the XY-bock, mainly because he’s a very big fan of Seismitoad EX and Giratina EX and I really enjoyed the Greninja BREAK deck, all of those cards, of course, being from XY sets. When irl tournament first stopped, I also played a bunch of ex-series tournaments organized by Jason Klaczynski, giving me the first proper look at that format because I previously was only familiar with decks that were really popular back then, such as LBS (Lugia, Blastoise, Steelix), RaiEggs (Raichu, Exeggutor) and FlAriados (Flareon, Ariados). 

One really big issue with older formats is that they’re really gatekept by the possibilities you have to actually play them. Anything pre Heartgold & Soulsilver doesn’t even exist on PTCGO, and thanks to the lack of custom starting rules, it’s not even possible to play any format after Sword & Shield properly, since that’s when he Turn one Supporter rule was changed and therefore made any previous format (even those that are barely one year ago) unplayable unless you resort to alternatives like both players passing their first Turn to make the starting player able to use Supporter cards. This is definitely better than not being able to play old formats at all, but in my opinion takes away from the experience, which is why I’m personally not the biggest fan of “pass, pass”.

There are a couple of unofficial ways to play old formats, but I would really hope that Pokémon realizes how much players appreciate older formats and make at least some of them available in Pokémon Trading Card Game Online, or Pokémon TCG Live (which, at the moment of writing this article, we still don’t know what exactly it is). At the end of the day, playing Irl (with proxies or real cards) is obviously the best way to play old formats, but a lot of people don’t have the possibility, especially due to current restrictions all around the world. Some communities have also started having Webcam tournaments via Discord, which is a really cool way to replace in-person playing, especially because it lets you play against players around the world.

Closing thoughts 

I think the Pokémon TCG offers a lot of amazing ways to take part in the game, even if the current Stanard isn’t enjoyable for you or simply if you’re waiting for a new set release or the rotation. My personal top choice is always going to be old formats because I really enjoy taking a look at the history of the game and how different it felt in other formats, which is why this is definitely my biggest wish for Pokémon TCG Live to be able to play them online on an official simulator. For newer players that look for something that doesn’t require learning a lot of new cards and that doesn’t have the biggest card pool with expensive cards on PTCGO, I highly suggest to play the GLC format. Currently, there are a lot of people interested in it and even some unofficial tournaments online. If you are looking to buy some PTCGO codes, you are in the right spot. PTCGO Store is having a large assortment of Pokémon TCG online codes and an instant delivery of your PTCGO codes directly to your email. Thanks for reading!