The Basics to Collecting Guardians Rising
On May 5th, 2017, the Pokemon Company International (“PCI”) released the latest English expansion to the Pokemon TCG: Sun and Moon Guardians Rising. The set has been out for a little over a week now, and many early adaptors have had a chance to crack open their booster boxes and see what features the newest release brings to the Pokemon TCG. What follows is a brief dossier of the information collectors will find important for tracking down and completing this set, as well as my general thoughts on the latest release and what collectors should expect for Burning Shadows, the next English expansion.
Total cards in standard set: 169
Total reverse holo cards:118
Total cards in master set (excludes theme deck variants): 287
Theme deck exclusive variants: 4 (two in each theme deck)
Total Secret Rares: 24 (approximately 1:56 packs)
Total Ultra Rares: 15 (approximately 1:18 packs)
Total standard GX Rares: 12 (approximately 1:9 packs)
When Sun and Moon was released in February, it featured departures from a number of established trends in the XY era of the TCG, including among other things: (1) an unprecedented number of Secret Rares, (2) a large set size, (3) relatively sparce pull rates for premium cards. At the time of Sun and Moon’s release, it was unclear if these departures were a one time occurrence or a harbinger of the new normal for releases in the Sun and Moon era. Guardians Rising solidified these trends as the new norm and even expanded upon them.
In my New Collector’s Guide to Sun and Moon, I mentioned that Sun and Moon featured the largest number of Secret Rares in a single set in the history of the English TCG. Guardians Rising took that unprecedented number and added an additional ten Secret Rare cards to the set.
PCI’s Board of Directors discusses Guardians Rising
Where did all of these Secret Rares come from? Guardians Rising is an amalgamation of cards from a number of Japanese sets including: Islands Await You, Alolan Moonlight, Strength Expansion Pack Sun and Moon, and the Rockruff Full Power Deck. It features Secret Rare versions of all 12 GX Pokemon that appear as standard GX rares in the set, plus Secret Rare versions of 5 trainer cards (Sun and Moon had 4), plus Secret Rare variants of Decidueye GX, Incineroar GX, and Primarina GX that were originally included in Japan’s Strength Expansion Pack Sun and Moon but were excluded from the English version of Sun and Moon, plus 4 Secret Rare energy cards (Sun and Moon had 2).
The inclusion of this many Secret Rares has had a mixed reception in the collecting community. On the one hand, these cards look great and the inclusion of such a high number of Secret Rares makes completing the set challenging.
Secret Rare Aqua Patch from Guardians Rising
On the other hand, there are so many Secret Rares in this set, at such a dismal pull rate, that casual collectors may feel alienated by Guardians Rising. Part of the appeal of collecting Secret Rares in the pre-Sun and Moon era stems from the fact that the cards are (1) the rarest in the set and (2) represent only a small portion of the total set. Both of these factors help casual collectors emotionally identify these cards as unique treasures that, while rare, are ultimately worth pursuing. With Guardians Rising, the Secret Rares are still the rarest cards in the set, but there are so many of them that most collectors will never be able to complete the set by buying booster packs alone. Faced with this reality, casual collectors may simply decide that this set isn’t worth the trouble of completing. This, in turn, affects the secondary market prices of Secret Rare cards, lowering the demand for non-competitive Secret Rares while simultaneously driving up the price of Secret Rare competitive staples. This won’t be a problem so long as players and collectors continue to buy product, but there is a tipping point for this “Secret Rare Inflation.” I don’t know if we’ve reached that tipping point with Guardians Rising, but if this trend continues, casual collectors are going to eventually determine that the cost of collecting Secret Rares (both in terms of time and money) is too great. That kind of burnout is not healthy for the game and while we should expect Burning Shadows to contain a high number of Secret Rares, hopefully that number is closer to Sun and Moon’s 14 and not Guardians Rising’s excessive 24.
How can PCI address this Secret Rare Inflation? There are two options: either reduce the number of Secret Rares in the next set or adjust the pull rate to make Secret Rares easier to obtain. The second option is not without precedent. After the release of Primal Clash (a particularly massive set during the XY era with a large number of Ultra Rare cards for the time), many collectors reported better pull rates for Roaring Skies and greatly improved pull rates for Ancient Origins. It’s possible that PCI will identify the issue and make Secret Rares easier to obtain going forward if they plan to keep releasing future sets with similar numbers of Secret Rares.
Expectations for Burning Shadows
Based on Guardians Rising and Sun and Moon, we should expect the following for Burning Shadows: (1) another large set; (2) a hefty number of Secret Rares including premium versions of basic energy cards, trainers, and standard GX rares; (3) similar or marginally improved pull rates depending on whether PCI decides to address the ongoing Secret Rare Inflation; and (4) Charizard GX has already been announced for the upcoming English set, so expect Burning Shadows to draw considerable interest from collectors, even if Secret Rare Inflation continues.
Thecardpletionist has been collecting Pokemon TCG cards since the game’s English release in 1999. You can read more from the author at http://thecardpletionist.blogspot.com/