Pokémon TCG Battle Styles Product Review: Elite Trainer Box

Pokémon cards are more popular than ever, and there's about to be another surge in interest next week when the newest expansion, Sword & Shield: Battle Styles, is released. This new set, the fifth main Sword & Shield expansion, introduces a new mechanic to the Pokémon TCG with Single Strike and Rapid Strike battle styles. This new mechanic will make this a highly playable set, but will it also appeal to collectors? Battle Styles will be released this coming Friday, March 19th, but The Pokémon Company International sent some products ahead of this release in exchange for fair reviews. First, we're cracking into a beloved product that releases with every modern set: the Elite Trainer Box.

Battle Styles Booster Box & Elite Trainer Box. Credit: Pokémon TCG
Battle Styles Booster Box & Elite Trainer Box. Credit: Pokémon TCG

The Elite Trainer Box includes…

The ETB for standard Pokémon TCG expansions (those branded with the current "Sword & Shield" generation title) are a bit different than what you get for a special (or, "holiday") set like Shining Fates. These don't include a promo card, but rather have:

  • Eight packs of Battle Styles
  • Dice and damage markers for competitive play
  • A book including information on the set and a checklist of every card in the expansion, including Secret Rares
  • Sleeves featuring Battle Styles branding
  • The box itself, pictured above
  • The cardboard casing that folds out to become a gigantic poster showcasing the artwork from the packs
  • Energy cards
  • Pokémon TCG rules
  • and more
Battle Styles Elite Trainer Box. Credit: TPCI
Battle Styles Elite Trainer Box. Credit: TPCI
Battle Styles Elite Trainer Box. Credit: TPCI
Battle Styles Elite Trainer Box. Credit: TPCI

There are two boxes available with this expansion, showcasing both Rapid Strike Urshifu and Single Strike Urshifu. I received the Rapid Strike Box, which is a cool, deep blue. The box itself is beautiful and works perfectly to store cards, but I was a bit let down by seeing an odd aspect of Shining Fates Elite Trainer Box continue here. The sleeves for the cards have a matte finish, rather than the glossy finish of pre-Shining Fates sleeves. This style may have been chosen for ease of using matte sleeves in competitive decks, but as a collector, the way that the matte finish mutes the holographic shine of the set's best cards is unfortunate. This is the only issue I had with this same product with Shining Fates and is again the one issue I have with the Battle Styles Elite Trainer Box. Otherwise, a beautiful product.

But now, let's get into what we're all hype about. The actual cards.

Battle Styles cards. Credit: Pokémon TCG
Battle Styles cards. Credit: Pokémon TCG

Impressions of Pokémon TCG: Battle Styles

Cracking packs of Battle Styles has been a blast. When the series was first announced, there were some influencers talking about how they weren't sure if this would be a collectible set, thinking that it was tailored to Pokémon TCG players only. That is emphatically not the case. While this set is certainly designed to make the actual TCG gameplay dynamic, the artwork in the set makes it among the best Sword & Shield expansions so far.

Battle Styles cards. Credit: TPCI
Battle Styles cards. Credit: TPCI

The set is made up of standard (common, uncommon, rare) cards, holos, Pokémon V, Pokémon VMAX, Full Art, Full Art Alternate Art, Rainbow Rare, and Gold Cards. The one thing that Battle Styles is missing that we've seen in other recent sets is Amazing Rare cards and while that is something I'd love to see return in future sets, Battle Styles feels complete as is. The strength of Battle Styles is the beautiful artwork not only in the exciting rare cards but also the commons.

Something that the Pokémon TCG does well is playing out stories over the course of multiple cards. This kind of artwork makes sets memorable. For example, I'll always remember Roaring Skies not only as the set with the incredible Shaymin and Rayquaza cards, but as the set where Meowth is about to bite a berry in its card with Inkay creeping in the background, and Inkay's card showing Inkay making off with the berry with an inked-up Meowth in the background. In Battle Styles, Pignite's card shows the Pokémon pigging out in a buffet while the Tyranitar Alternate Art, arguably the most coveted card of the set, showcases another angle of the scene with Tyranitar passed out from the same buffet as Pignite is in the background. I wasn't lucky enough to pull that card, but I'll certainly keep cracking packs until I do. That wasn't the only card that connects to others, as Mienfoo's card also ties to Empoleon's Alternate Art card.

Battle Styles cards. Credit: TPCI
Battle Styles cards. Credit: TPCI

The artwork has huge personality here, and nuanced personality at that, showcasing Pokémon in roles that we don't normally see them in. Tyranitar is often shown as a fierce attacker on its cards, so it's great as a longtime fan of the Pokémon to see a more casual and friendly side of it here.

Battle Styles cards. Credit: Pokémon TCG
Battle Styles cards. Credit: Pokémon TCG

Overall

I'll get more into the set in my Booster Box review, but the set seems generous on the pull rate and offers a fun experience opening packs.

Pokémon TCG: Battle Styles releases March 19th, but if you're lucky, you'll be able to find Build & Battle Boxes at local game stores that include packs of the upcoming expansion.

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About Theo Dwyer

Theo Dwyer writes about comics, film, and games.
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