The last quarter of 2021 saw rampant rumors that the Pokémon TCG was going to discontinue Rainbow Rares starting in 2022. These rumors first started cropping up around the height of the Alternate Art craze which still rages on today. Collectors saw sets like Sword & Shield – Battle Styles, Sword & Shield – Chilling Reign, Sword & Shield – Evolving Skies, and Sword & Shield – Fusion Strike offer staggeringly large Full Art and Secret Rare selections that included standard Full Arts, Full Art Trainers, Alt Art Vs, Rainbow Rare VMAXes, Rainbow Rare Trainers, Alt Art VMAXes, Gold Items, Gold Pokémon, and Gold Energies. These bigger-than-ever end-of-set sections were introduced at a time when interest in Rainbow Rares was at an all-time low, with attention squarely on Alternate Arts. These rumors were exacerbated when Japan's VMAX Climax came out in December. VMAX Climax is Japan's new high-class set and it reintroduced Character Cards and offered a large selection of Black & Gold Pokémon cards, but no Rainbow Rares. Many theorized that the Black & Gold style of card, previously used quite sparingly, would replace Rainbow Rares. It is now confirmed, however, that this is not the case and Rainbow Rares will continue in the next wave of sets using the Pokémon-VSTAR mechanic.
Brilliant Stars cards. Credit: Pokémon TCGThis was confirmed by the release of the latest main series Pokémon TCG Japanese set, Star Birth. While VMAXes are not present in the set due to the emergence of VSTARs as their replacement, Rainbow Rares are indeed in the set on both VSTARs and Trainers. This set will be adapted into the English-language Sword & Shield – Brilliant Stars and is expected to set the tone for all main series sets in 2022. Notably, it is expected that Sword & Shield – Brilliant Stars will also in part adapt VMAX Climax, likely including the set's Black & Gold Pokémon and a selection of Character Cards. It is not yet known if VMAX Climax will continue to be translated to English in further subsets or if it will take the form of a special set at some point.