Is It Time For Pokémon TCG To Retire Rainbow Rares?

Lately, there seems to be growing frustration in the Pokémon TCG community at the number of Secret Rare cards in current expansions that use the rainbow foil style. These cards, referred to often as Rainbow Rares and Hyper Rares, began in the Sun & Moon era with the dawn of Rainbow Rare Pokémon and have continued in an even bigger way during Sword & Sheild which introduced Rainbow Rare Trainer Supporter Cards. Some find these to be beautiful, so what is the issue here? Let's dive in to see.

Rainbow Rares in Pokémon TCG. Credit: TPCI
Rainbow Rares in Pokémon TCG. Credit: TPCI

The basic issue that some collectors have with the use of Rainbow Rare cards is quite simple and can be broken down into three points:

  • The rainbow color palette removes detail from the card, making Rainbow Rares less visually appealing than the Full Art equivalent of the same card.
  • Pokémon in a set can now receive a standard V or VMAX, a Full Art version of the same card, and a Rainbow Rare version of the same card. Some feel that this is dipping back too many times to inflate the number of cards in a Pokémon TCG expansion.
  • Finally, the high number of Rainbow Rares in a set increases the number of overall Secret Rares, making the prospect of collecting a complete set or a master set very difficult compared to pre-Sun & Moon era sets.

Now, the Pokémon TCG seems to be adjusting to this feedback. Chilling Reign will be the next expansion and will mostly adapt three Japanese-language sets into English. These sets (Matchless Fighter, Jet Black Poltergeist, Silver Lance) continue Rainbow Rares but indeed to a lesser extent. These are some of the non-Rainbow Rare Secret Rares in the three sets.

Japanese-language secret rares. Credit: TPC
Japanese-language secret rares. Credit: TPC

Every Sword & Shield-era set has had Gold Secret Rare Pokémon cards, so the Bronzong is nothing new. However, Battle Styles started the idea of pushing certain Alternate Arts to the Secret Rare slot rather than including them with the Full Arts. We can expect this to continue in Chilling Reign with cards like the above Calyrex VMAX Alternate Arts and potentially the Blaziken VMAX Alternate Art.

Personally, I don't think the Pokémon TCG should retire Rainbow Rares. They are indeed beautiful and the digital artwork does not do the cards justice. Pull one in person and I believe you'll be on my side here. Is the world not better, I ask you, for the existence of the Rainbow Rare Pikachu VMAX from Vivid Voltage? I'd argue it is.

That does not mean, though, that I don't think Rainbow Rares are overdone.

I believe that every style of Secret Rare should be treated as if they are special. For example, check out the number of Rainbow Rares in each of these sets:

  • Sword & Sheild: 8 total
  • Sword & Sheild: Rebel Clash: 11 total
  • Sword & Sheild: Darkness Ablaze: 7 total
  • Champion's Path: 5 total
  • Sword & Sheild: Vivid Voltage: 12 total
  • Shining Fates: 1 total
  • Sword & Sheild: Battle Styles: 12 total
Pokémon TCG's previous secret rares. Credit: TPCI
Pokémon TCG's previous secret rares. Credit: TPCI

Twelve, I feel, is too many. In the above graphic, you can see three different kinds of Secret Rare cards of past sets. Here's how each set did these.

  • Cosmic Eclipse's character cards: These were special Secret Rares in this set only that were treated as a subset. This means that they could be pulled in the Reverse Holo slot, which made it so you didn't have to buy twenty-seven booster boxes to collect an entire set of them. There were a higher number of these but, because of that number, their place in the Reverse Holo slot made sense.
  • The Gold Pokémon cards of the XY era: XY sets featured textured, golden Secret Rares featuring a prominent species from the set with other buddies behind it. There were generally one or two of these per set, making a pack where you pulled the set's Secret Rare essentially the crowning achievement of collecting that set.
  • Golden Shinies of the Black & White era: Before Hidden Fates introduced the idea of a Shiny Vault, Generation Five sets had Shinies as Secret Rares, but just a couple per set.

Rainbow Rares can be treated like any of these. If there is a set of Secret Rares in the set with a huge number, putting them in the Reverse Holo slot makes packs dynamic and keeps them rare without making them unobtainable as a complete set. The best option, though, is simply to cut down. Of course, the Pokémon TCG is a business and Secret Rares equal more customers buying more products in attempt to chase more cards… but with so, so many sets coming out per year, it feels like a cap of nine Secret Rares per set would be fair. Three Rainbow Rares, three Gold Cards, and three Secret Rare Alternate Arts would be my ideal. How about you?

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About Theo Dwyer

Theo Dwyer writes about comics, film, and games.
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