Pokémon TCG Sword & Shield – Battle Styles: Complete Review

Sword & Shield – Battle Styles is the first mainline Pokémon TCG expansion of 2021. Not only did this set introduce a new mechanic for players, but it also included the return of a fan-favorite style of card. Now that we have spotlighted all of the best pulls in the set (you can follow this series at the Battle Styles tag), let's look back at the set for a final complete review.

Cards of Sword & Shield - Battle Styles. Credit: Pokémon TCG
Cards of Sword & Shield – Battle Styles. Credit: Pokémon TCG

The Cards

When the Pokémon TCG first announced Battle Styles, many thought that it would be a player's set and not a collector's set. This was mostly because of the new Single Strike and Rapid Strike battle style mechanic that kicked off a major change in competitive gameplay. What added to the perception that Battle Styles would break from the collectibility of sets like the previous mainline expansion Vivid Voltage and the previous month's special set Shining Fate was the presence of the Rapid/Single Strike logo on the actual card.

However, when the actual set came out, that perception seemed to go away overnight… and it makes sense when you begin actually cracking packs of Battle Styles. It's an incredibly fun Pokémon TCG set with a great selection of Pokémon, including cards that tell a story and sometimes even complete a narrative over multiple cards. I personally loved the lack of Charizard in this set as well, as we got to see both the Tyranitar V Alternate Art and the Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX Alternate Art become chase cards solely on the strength of the artwork and concept. Speaking of which…

The Return of Alternate Arts to Pokémon TCG

We haven't seen Alternate Art cards since Cosmic Eclipse closed out the Sun & Moon era, so it's beautiful to see this unique and fan-favorite style of card return. The presence of these cards allows Pokémon TCG to continue having the standard style of Full Arts while also including an even more exciting version of the card with Alternate Arts. This time, Tyranitar V and Empoleon V get an Alternate Art each, with Urshifu getting a wild total of four Alternate Arts. This has made the set highly collectible, and it thankfully started a trend that will continue through Chilling Reign.

The flaws of Battle Styles are minor, but we again have too many Rainbow Rares and Golden Trainer/Energy cards in the set. I'd go as far as to rank Battle Styles as a 9/10 if a few cuts here and there were made. For instance, Mustard getting two Full Arts was enough. He certainly didn't need two Rainbow Rares as well. On top of that, it makes sense for the Rapid Strike and Single Strike Energies to receive Gold Cards, but as these are less appealing than other Secret Rares, it would have been a good move to cut the Gold Exp. Share and Level Ball Trainer Item cards. Other than those, though, which seem like unnecessary padding on an already dense set, Battle Styles is a terrific collection.

Cards of Sword & Shield - Battle Styles. Credit: Pokémon TCG
Cards of Sword & Shield – Battle Styles. Credit: Pokémon TCG

Final Rating

8.5/10. Battle Styles has turned out to be the second-best Sword & Shield mainline expansion thus far, ranking right under Vivid Voltage. It has some truly stunning cards, and the return of Alternate Arts adds to it in major ways. The Alternate Art Tyranitar is one of the most fun and unique Chase Cards we've seen in years, and it got there on the merit of its own artwork and concept. Add to that a fun selection of cards, concepts that tie together to create cute stories, some solid trainers, and terrific V and VMAXes and we have a set that is boundlessly fun to collect.

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About Theo Dwyer

Theo Dwyer writes about comics, film, and games.
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