Throughout my life I have had the awesome opportunity to play some amazing Trading Card Games. The 3 we are discussing here are Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh! & Magic the Gathering. I have spent YEARS playing each one of these games and I have had plenty of fun and created many memories I will never forget. There has always been the debate over which game was better and I have finally jumped into this discussion and I will explain in detail who is the best and why!
I am going to give a point to a game in each stage I present and at the end I will tally the score and see WHO is the winner. Seems simple enough right? Well the hard part is going to come when choosing who gets the points in EACH of these stages:
- Monsters/Creatures – The Look and Idea of the main cards in the series.
- Support Cards – Cards that support the deck like Item cards in Pokemon and Trap cards in Yu-Gi-Oh!
- Function – The way the game operates (how they attack, defend and so on).
- End Game – The system behind the way you win the game.
- Special Cards – Each game has “Special Cards” which of them don’t break the game?
- And Finally FUN – Which game lets you have the MOST fun?
So lets jump right into this and talk about the Monster/Creature cards! This one may be a simple choice by some but I think it is a bit more complex. We ALL know that Magic the Gathering has the best art of ANY card game and maybe even the best art IN THE WORLD, so they are the EASY choice. And while I agree, I also think that Pokemon has the opposite of what MTG has BUT in a good way. While MTG is dark, serious and adultish, Pokemon is fun, colorful and playful. Pokemon does EVERYTHING right on the opposite scale of what MTG does right on their side. Yu-Gi-Oh! however is in the middle of that scale but they don’t do anything particularly excellent. I know we all love the Dark Magician and Blue Eyes White Dragon, but Yu-Gi-Oh! tries to be the best of both worlds and I don’t think they do it as well as the others.
So for Monster/Creature Cards the points go to BOTH MTG & Pokemon!
In Stage 2 we have the Support Cards. I like to think that each of these games have the same role for their Support Cards. They find things in the deck, buffs or debuffs certain Monster/Creature cards so it is ALMOST a wash here, almost. I think ONE card game has that one unique element to their support cards that puts them over and that is Yu-Gi-Oh! with their Trap Cards! Trap Cards are amazing and it makes you and your opponent really think about their next move. Cards like Magic Cylinder and Trap Hole where some of my favorite cards. It adds that element of fear and anxiety before attacking your opponent that the other card games don’t have.
So for Support Cards the winner is Yu-Gi-Oh!
After Stage 2 we have a 3 way tie with each game at 1 point a piece as we head to Stage 3, Function! To start each game you draw cards, in YGO if you draw a band hand its tough luck. In Pokemon if you don’t draw a Monster you can start with, you reshuffle and draw again until you do, the penalty being your opponent draws one extra card for each time reshuffled, so that is pretty good. In MTG, no matter what you draw, if you don’t like it you can mulligan (reshuffle and draw again) for the penalty of drawing 1 less card. MTG gives you the most freedom to start the game so I have them leading Stage 3 early.
In Pokemon you have the limited area of having ONLY ONE active monster who can attack at one time, with a bench for 5 other Pokemon waiting to get into battle. YGO lets you have up to 5 active Monsters on the field who can either attack OR defend. MTG on the other hand is limitless as you have no cap to how many creatures are attacking and/or defending for you. I love the freedom that MTG gives you here and it is such a great feeling to see your army of creatures in front of you. So MTG still in the lead here.
In YGO the monsters are separated by “Normal”, “Effect”, “Fusion” and so on. They have ATK / DEF numbers in the thousands and when you attack with a card it is as simple as “I attack with the Dark Magician”. You choose what opponent Monster you will be attacking (but if they have none on the field you attack your opponent directly). In order for you to get your stronger Monsters on the field you have to “Tribute” the necessary amount of Monsters you already have on the field. So if you wanted to place Blue Eyes White Dragon on the field you would need to get rid of 2 Monsters you already have down on the field, possibly leaving you with a disadvantage. Also when in combat, if you are facing say a Blue Eyes, if you don’t have a Monster strong enough to take it out in one shot you just cant beat it. So if your opponent has a strong Monster out, unless you have a trap or special effect to counter it, your done.
In MTG there are MANY different types of Creatures and abilities to choose from, and they are all pretty well balanced. They have “Power” & “Toughness” numbers usually in the single digits ( 2/3, 1/1, etc). When you attack in MTG you “tap” (slide your card from vertical to horizontal) to show that you are attacking. You ALWAYS are attacking your opponent directly and it is up to your opponent to choose whether they want to take the damage or block with a Creature they may have on the field. Simply the opposite of what YGO has implemented. There is no tribute process here so you don’t NEED to get rid of Creatures you already have to gain more powerful Creatures. Instead you need to have the right amount of “Mana” (Land) cards in order to summon Creatures. If you draw a lot of Mana you can potentially summon a bunch of Creatures, end up not drawing much and you wont be summoning much. Unlike in YGO, if your opponent has a strong Creature you CAN indeed beat it with multiple weaker Creatures of your own if you don’t have a current strong one. This is far more fair and definitely evens the battlefield and makes for some awesome strategies. However IF you end up not completely killing that Creature, its toughness gets reset back to normal at the end 0f the turn.
Pokemon is a bit different, their Monsters have HP (hit points / life) and 1-3 different attacks (usually), with different damages! Each Monster has a different type (fire, water, electric, etc) and while you don’t need “Mana” to summon them like in MTG, you do need “Energy” attached to the Monster for that Monster to use its attacks. So in a sense it is almost the same thing, just a different reason for use. So unlike MTG and YGO where you attack with a normal “ill attack with my (so and so)”, Pokemon has that UMPH behind the attack when you say “Ill use Charizard’s FIRE BLAST!”, A LOT more fun to say and a different card of the same Monster may have different attacks, abilities and damages so if you have 2 of the same Monster they could still be very different!. Also in Pokemon Monsters Evolve! So that ONE Monster can Evolve 1-2 times (usually) and each time they get stronger, you don’t need to get rid of other cards to do so like YGO. You are just making that one Monster become more powerful as the game goes on. With the Monsters HP, if they get damaged, they STAY damaged no matter if the turn ends. The only way to heal them is with Supporter Cards or other Monsters abilities. This makes it fair for players who don’t have a strong Monster at the time to try and chip away at their opponents. In Pokemon, Monsters ALSO have weaknesses against other types of Pokemon so there is a lot more to think about when going up against an opponent. MTG nor YGO has that aspect.
While I give MTG credit for Freedom, I am also giving credit to Pokemon for Style and creativity!
To end the game in Pokemon you have to beat ALL of your opponents Pokemon they have available or until you collect 6 prize cards (you get a prize card for beating an opponents Pokemon). In MTG each player has a Life Counter of 20 and once one players Life hits 0 they lose. This happens by one player attacking the other player directly with their Creatures. YGO is the exact same way as MTG, but instead of a Life Counter of 20 they have Life Points of 8000. There is nothing better than hearing the sound effects from the YGO Life Counter as you are beating your opponent down! But seeing how the sound effect is only from a 3rd party source (like a app) it isn’t really part of the game itself and is essentially the same as MTG except for MTG being A LOT simpler.
Once again I am going to have to go with MTG and Pokemon because MTG is so easy to understand and simple and Pokemon follows the structure of their entire series with the 6 Pokemon rule and it is ALSO quite simple to understand and follow.
We are here at Stage 5 and the score right now is MTG & Pokemon 3, YGO 1. With 2 Stages yet to go YGO could very well make this a 3 way tie! Now lets talk Special Cards! These are the cards that are added to the card game to add another element of fun, strategy and that “cool” effect. In YGO they have done A LOT of these Special Cards, like the Ritual, Syncro and XYZ cards. When they did added the ritual cards, I was okay with it because it stuck with the concept and rules of the game. When they released the XYZ and Syncro cards, I stopped playing the game completely. It took away what I loved about the game. Instead of being a strategist and trying to out smart your opponent, you then are able to summon “Monster A” which it’s ability is to Special Summon “Monster B” which in turn Special summons “Monster C” and in that same turn you can combine them using the Syncro or XYZ feature and guess what? On the very first turn, you have a Monster that would usually take you AT LEAST 4 turns to put out. Add that with those cards having abilities like “when this card is XYZ/Syncro Summoned Destroy ALL cards on your opponents side of the field”. Wait! WHAT?! It felt like cheating to me and the game became flooded with these types and I couldn’t enjoy the game anymore. I will ALWAYS say, XYZ & Syncro DESTROYED YGO.
Pokemon has the EX and now “Mega Evolution” & “Break” cards which present the same problem as YGO but with a MUCH smaller concern. I actually ENJOY these cards because NOT ALL are OP but when they are grouped together as an EX deck, THAT is where the problem lies. Like I mentioned in a previous article, IF the EX cards had a limit of 1-2 per deck it would help the problem out. Break cards are still early in their existence to tell but so far so good.
In MTG you have your Planeswalkers which are basically your teammate (it is like another actual player on your side). There powers vary but you have to be able to power them up before you can use their stronger powers. Players can make their Creatures attack their opponents Planeswalkers and if they succeed (if their opponent has nothing to block with) then that Planeswalker loses power and/or dies. It is a complete level playing field even though the Planeswalkers can be SO strong!
This one HAS to go to MTG as I feel their Special Cards don’t HURT the game at all!
The LAST and FINAL Stage is the MOST important one of all. FUN! YGO is a game that WAS fun for me a LONG time ago. When it wasn’t ruined by the mechanics they implemented as NEW and BETTER. In my opinion YGO was fun in its early years, it was ALL about out thinking your opponent, now its just a race to get your strongest cards out there. There is NOTHING fun about the game at all… I don’t even think you can play online anymore either.
Pokemon is sort of a race to get your best cards out there as well but it isn’t BROKEN! You can only have ONE card in the battle at a time so the playing field is pretty level and you still have to put your deck together strategically and like I said before, you may have a Jolteon in your deck already BUT that NEW Jolteon they just released may actually work better with that NEW move-set. There is ALWAYS something to improve on or try out. All of the Pokemon are represented very well and they always look so good. While you will have fun playing tabletop, you will REALLY enjoy the Online version as it literally BRINGS THE GAME TO LIFE. It is BY FAR the BEST TCGO out there.
MTG has the most in depth collection of cards you will ever see. From Vampires to Werewolves to Aliens and Knights and so on. The possibilities are endless and the art on these cards are priceless! They should be in a museum, no joke. As the original card game that the other 2 were pretty much spawned from you can’t deny its longevity and the way it has been able to stay so fair, so clean and so level after all these years. However their Online version is SOOOO bad… So so so bad. If they had something like Pokemon TCGO it would be amazing.
I am giving the Points to Pokemon & MTG as Pokemon has a Solid Table Top game AND a FANTASTIC Online game, while MTG has GREAT Table Top game and a very poor Online version.
So the FINAL tally, MTG (5), Pokemon (4) & YGO (1). Magic The Gathering is the BEST TCG out there and that is WELL DESERVED. I LOVE MTG and I have tons of cards to play in real life. But just being edged out, Pokemon is right there and they will continue to be my TCGO answer until further notice. YGO… YGO has seen better days and quiet frankly I don’t know how they are still around.
Thank you for taking the time out to read along, what are your thoughts on these card games? Which do you think is better? Let me know in the Comments section and/or on Twitter!