Complete Set Review: Pokémon TCG: Sword & Shield – Astral Radiance
In May 2022, Pokémon TCG released the second main series set of 2022. The expansion, Sword & Shield – Astral Radiance, came out on May 27th, 2022. It is the tenth set under the Sword & Shield banner and is the first to include the Radiant Pokémon mechanic. Radiant Pokémon are similar to Shining Pokémon of the past as they include a Shiny Pokémon with holofoil and texture on the figure rather than the background. The difference, though, is a special holo pattern on the text area of the card. Sword & Shield – Astral Radiance also continues the Trainer Gallery, a special subset of Character Rares, Character Super Rares, Full Art Trainers, and Black & Gold VMAXes that began in the previous set, Sword & Shield – Brilliant Stars. Follow me through a journey through this latest set as we appreciate the artwork, discuss the card's place in the set, and discuss what certain elements of the expansion may imply for the future of the Pokémon TCG. Today, we conclude with a full review of Sword & Shield – Astral Radiance.
The final year of Sword & Shield continues
We are in the third and final year of the Sword & Shield era, which had a Galar focus in the first two years. The direct previous set, Sword & Shield – Brilliant Stars, switched things up by switching the focus to Sinnoh in honor of the Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl remakes. This non-Galar focus continues in Sword & Shield – Astral Radiance, making 2022 feel somewhat like a single-year era rather than the finale of Sword & Shield. And that's a good thing.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus and Hisui
This time, the focus is the Hisui region introduced in Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Hisui is an ancient version of Sinnoh, and with its introduction, we got Hisuian versions of Pokémon, Hisui-exclusive evolutions, and new Origin Formes for Palkia and Dialga. Along with Origin Forme Palkia and Dialga, the set mascots are Hisuian Samurott, Hisuian Typhlosion, and Hisuian Decidueye. The focus on new species and regional variants is strong but slightly overwhelming, with a bit of the iconic nature of recent sets (Eeveelutions in Evolving Skies, Mew in Fusion Strike, and Arceus/Charizard in Brilliant Stars) dulled in this one. Still, I like that this set is bold in how it establishes Hisui as the focus.
The set continues with Alternate Arts, including some strong offerings such as the stunning Mitsuhiro Arita Origin Forme Dialga Alternate Art and the set's chase card, the Machamp Alternate Art. The art throughout this expansion remains strong, especially in the next section we'll talk about.
Trainer Gallery and Radiant Pokémon
Like Sword & Shield – Brilliant Stars, this set includes a 30-card Trainer Gallery subset made up of Character Rares, Character Super Rares, Full Art Trainers, and Black & Gold VMAXes. While this Trainer Gallery isn't as strong as the stunning Brilliant Stars offering, there are quite a few memorable cards, including the Starmie V CSR and the Garchomp V CSR.
What sets Sword & Shield – Astral Radiance apart in terms of pull rate is the inclusion of a new card type that can also be pulled in the reverse holo slot: Radiant Pokémon. These cards feature a textured reverse foil pattern, and they depict the Pokémon in its Shiny form. While the art of this set's three Radiant cards are hit and miss, the inclusion of this card enriches openings because it did not take away from the number of Trainer Gallery hits that could be pulled, but rather added to them. The Radiant Greninja is the standout here!
8.5/10. Pokémon TCG: Sword & Shield – Astral Radiance will be remembered as a strong set that brought Hisuian Pokémon into the fold and continued enriching pack openings with Trainer Gallery pulls. While not a show-stopper like Sword & Shield – Brilliant Stars, it is a worthy and memorable entry in what may be the hobby's best series block ever.