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The most difficult English Pokemon TCG Master Sets to complete

Completing a Master Set of any expansion in the game is always an achievement. Taking an already difficult to complete Full Set (everything from booster packs) and adding into it all variants and promos from the set. In this article, we are going to go through the hardest and most annoying cards to find to finish out those Master Sets.

Note that I will only be highlighting cards that are difficult to find, rather than cards that are simply too expensive for most of us to pick up. I also will not be including cards that did not have an official release, nor will I be including error cards, as for the most part these would be considered something else to collect on top of a Master Set rather than being part of the Master Set itself. Maybe that’s an article for another day.

ex-era code variations – ex Ruby & Sapphire through ex Delta Species

One for the true die-hards and obsessives out there. I imagine most people have never had a reason to be aware of the codes on ex-era cards, let alone the variants. Well, if you take a look at a card from the ex-era in the bottom left you will see a nine-digit code, a mixture of letters and numbers. Now for reasons that have never fully been explained, when these sets were released, you could get the same card with multiple different codes. From ex Ruby & Sapphire to ex Deoxys, all commons had three code variations and all uncommons had two code variations, while ex Emerald to ex Delta Species had just the three variations for commons.

The code variation also only appears on the non-holo versions of the card, with all reverse/alternate holo copies having the same code. The reason these are so annoying to find is simply that not too many people know or care about them. Sites do not have cards listed separately by code, and often listings will have stock images, so you won’t always know exactly which one you are getting. When you’re down to missing just a couple of specific codes, you now have to convince people to start going through their bulk and spend their time finding the right code, just to sell you a card you are likely buying for less than a dollar.

Master Sets

Stadium Challenge Deoxys – ex Deoxys

So not only does the ex Deoxys set have all the code variations mentioned above, and not only does it contain some of the most desirable and expensive Gold Stars, but the ex Deoxys Master Set is also home to the Stadium Challenge Deoxys, an incredibly rare participation promo from the 2005 Stadium Challenge. Stadium Challenges were a very short-lived tournament style. In 2004 a series of Stadium Challenges were run worldwide, by 2005 Stadium Challenges had been cut back to simply one event, in Austria. The event was attended by around 100 total players, however, due to the tournament organizer not receiving enough copies of the card only around half of the players received the card. This puts the estimated release right around 50 total copies. With only a very small number of public sales over the last 16 years and an auction in January that ended at $12,600, this isn’t a Master Set many people will be finishing any time soon.

Master Sets

1999-2000 Copyright Date – Fossil

First off, yes, I am aware that Base Set also has a 1999-2000 copyright variation. However, compared to Fossil, the Base Set variation is an easy pickup. With Fossil, the copyright variant affects all non-holo cards plus the holo Zapdos. The holo Zapdos can be found fairly easily, originally releasing within the Thunderstorm Gift Box alongside a few other 1999-2000 Fossil cards (Raichu, Golduck, Psyduck, and Energy Search). It’s the rest of the cards that are the problem. The print run that contained the updated copyright date was printed and sold exclusively within Australia, making it a much smaller print run than any previous printings. Add in the fact that these were not really known about until 2013, so the Australian players and collectors who got them will likely not have made any special note of them, and you’ll understand why there are less than ten completed sets publicly known about and why some of the rares are hitting four-figure sales.

European Regional Championships Exclusives – BW: Dark Explorers & BW Plasma Freeze

Another group of cards was given out exclusively at tournaments. Between 2012 and 2014, Eevee and all of its current evolutions became promos across the whole tournament season, from the small City Championships to the large National Championships. The two Eeveelutions we need to talk about today are Vaporeon and Leafeon. Within North America, these two promos were released for the State/Province/Territory Championships, Vaporeon in the 2012-2013 season and Leafeon in the 2013-2014 season. In Europe however, instead of SPT events, they had an extra round of Regionals. Rather than reuse one of the other Regionals Eeveelutions, Vaporeon and Leafeon had secondary versions created showing the Regionals logo.

Now, while these two cards are rare, you can still get lucky and find them from time to time. However, by this point in time, all tournament promos not only had a regular version that was given to players, but they also had Staff stamped versions for the organizer and the judges at the event. The European exclusive variants are no different. Staff stamped copies of these European exclusives are few and far between. Leafeon is the more common of the two, but neither of these cards is in great quantity.

Master Sets

For more information on the Eeveelution tournament promos as a whole, be sure to check out this article by Charlie Hurlocker.

My favourite line from that article: “Down the line, I anticipate the STAFF Regionals Vaporeon may very well prove to be a card worth hundreds of dollars per copy.” If you’re reading this Charlie, my credit card provider would like me to let you know that you undershot that price quite significantly.

Internationals Champion Cards – XY: Evolutions, Sun & Moon, SM: Guardians Rising, SM: Team Up

The final cards I am talking about today are once again tournament-related. But these didn’t just require you to attend the tournament like the Stadium Challenge Deoxys, or even help run the tournament like the Eeveelution Staff Promos. These required you to win the tournament. Starting in the 2016-2017 season, the tournament series received a major shake-up. One of the big changes made was the removal of the National Championship and the introduction of the International Championships. Instead of each country hosting a tournament towards the end of the season, there would be four large tournaments spaced throughout the year and around the world. One each in Europe, Oceania, Latin America, and North America.

Like previous tournaments, a card from a set was given a special logo and foil treatment for players, with a Staff stamped version being added for Staff, in the 2016-2017 season that card was Double Colorless Energy from Evolutions. Unlike previous tournaments, something else was added that had previously only been done at the World Championships. Stamped cards for top finishers. Internationals adding cards stamped with “Top 8” and “Champion”, the Champion cards had one copy given to each winner for a total of six copies. Oh, and the logo changed between events to state which region it took place in. Trying to complete an English Master Set of XY: Evolutions? Well, you’re going to need four different cards which each have six total copies released (not to mention the four different Top 8 cards which each only have 48 copies). Good luck! 

Future years made things slightly easier (emphasis on slightly), by localizing some of the languages at tournaments. Sun & Moons Ultra Ball had its Latin America version released in Portuguese, so only three Champion stamped cards are needed for your English Master Set. Guardians Risings Choice Band went one step further, releasing the European print in German leaving only the Oceania, and North America prints in English. Finally Pokemon Communication from Team Up is the easiest of all, as the cancellation of events midway through the season leaves only the Oceania print released in English. Only one card with six total copies in the Master Set? At this point, it might as well be Base Set 2.

Only a couple of collectors have dared to take on the challenge of completing the XY: Evolutions Master Set, with noted collector David Persin having completed the mammoth task, and ThunderMoo coming in a close second with three out of the four Champion cards.

The cards mentioned here are of course not the only difficult to find cards from Master Sets (it’s almost like these things are hard to complete), so if this one was interesting, be sure to tell our editor how fantastic I am so he will let me do this again.

Dan Norton – DJGigabyte

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