Browse > Home / Strategy / Articles / Terms and Conditions May Apply: Terminology of the Pokémon Trading Card Game

Terms and Conditions May Apply: Terminology of the Pokémon Trading Card Game

As with any game, there will be terms that you will need to know how to play. This article is a glossary covering most terms and topics you will encounter when speaking with another Pokemon player. Many terms can have multiple meanings, but typically when someone in the community says one of these terms they mean that specific term. Do note that though some terms are similar to existing terms in the dictionary or in other card games, they may not be in the Pokemon Trading Card Game. If the list looks intimidating worry not, you will become more familiar as you play as most of the terms are intuitive.

The Play Zone

Image source from YouTube.

Active Pokémon: Only Pokémon in this position can attack. They can also take damage according to the Damage dealt on the opponent’s Active Pokémon. A Pokémon in the Active Pokémon position may retreat to the Bench if there is at least one Pokémon in the Bench, one per turn.
Bench: Up to five Pokémon can be placed on the Bench. Pokémon in the Bench cannot attack but can take damage depending on card effects.
Deck: The player’s sixty-card deck is placed here.

Discard Pile: Any card that has been used, knocked out, removed, or discarded goes to the Discard Pile. Cards sent here can be retrieved depending on cards played. Like the Graveyard in Yu-Gi-oh.
Lost Zone: Cards sent to the Lost Zone by ability or card effect cannot be retrieved or shuffled back into the player’s deck. Like banishment in other card games.
Prize Cards: Six Cards are placed in this zone facedown, for each Knockout the player takes (two for EX and GX knockout, three for Tag Team GX knockout), the player takes prizes from their Prize Cards zone. When all six are taken, that player wins the game.
Stadium: When a player plays a Stadium Trainer Card, that Stadium goes into the Stadium zone, only one Stadium card can be on the Stadium zone by both players. Stadium cards affect both players. When another Stadium card is played, while another Stadium is in effect, that prior Stadium card is discarded.

Parts of a Card

Ability: Abilities are special powers and effects certain Pokémon can use during yours or your opponent’s turn. Some abilities can be used as many times as you desire or once per turn per Pokémon with that same Ability Name.
Attack Damage: The amount of HP subtracted from your Opponent’s Active Pokémon.
Attack Name: Name of the Attack.
Attack Text: Details additional effects of the attack.
Card Name: Identifies the name of the card, as only up to four copies of the same card name may be used in your deck.
Card Type: Identifies what kind of card it is. (Trainer, Stadium, supporter, Pokémon)
Collector Card Number: Gives a collector’s number, allows for identification of the card.
Energy Cost: Tells you how much an attack will cost in terms of energy. Energy cards stay on the Pokémon unless removed by the Attack Text, Card effect, or your opponent by attacking with an energy removal/discard effect or using a card effect that removes/discards energy.
Evolution Stage: Identifies which Evolution Stage a Pokémon is.
Evolves From: Specifies what Pokémon an Evolution Pokémon evolves from. Only Evolution Pokémon can be placed on top the Pokémon it “evolves from”.
Expansion Symbol: Symbol for expansion identification.
HP: Short for “Hit points”, tells you how much life a Pokémon has, when it reaches “0” that Pokémon is Knocked Out. All cards attached to the knocked-out Pokémon must be discarded.
Item: These set of Trainer cards can be used as many times as desired. Any number of item cards can be used, but the card can only be used once. Once used, the card is discarded.
PokeDex Entry: A quick description of the Pokémon card.
Pokémon Type: This symbol identifies what type that Pokémon is. There are ten types, that affect resistance and weakness on another Pokémon.
Rarity: Identifies the rarity of the card, there are multiple rarities with differing access. From least rare to rarest it goes Common > Uncommon > Rare > Holo Rare > Ultra Rare > Secret Rare
Resistance: Tells if the Pokémon is “resistant” to another Pokémon Type; if a type is identified, the Pokémon takes less damage specified to a certain Pokémon Type.
Retreat: Outlines the Retreat Cost of the Pokémon. A Pokémon can only retreat once per turn.
Retreat Cost: Tells you how many energy cards must be attached to the Pokémon to retreat, once the Pokémon retreats, the number Energy cards discarded is equal to the retreat cost.
Stadium: These class of Trainer cards can be placed in the stadium position; Stadium cards can only be used once per turn and affect both players’ play zone.
Supporter: These class of Trainer Cards provide a strong effect; however, Supporter cards can only be used once per turn.
Tool: These cards are a subclass of Item Trainer cards; these cards act as equipment and are attached to a Pokémon of your choosing. Unless specified, each Pokémon may only have up to one Tool card attached.
Trainer Rule: Outlines the rule for a specific type of trainer card.
Trainer Text: Details the Trainer card effect.
Trainer Type: Identifies what type of Trainer card the card is.
Weakness: Pokémon with a weakness take double damage from another Pokémon type specified in this section. 

Other Terms

Asleep: Pokémon affected by Asleep must flip a coin (or roll a dice) between each player’s turn. If heads, the Pokémon wakes up and can attack and retreat. If tails the Pokémon remains Asleep and cannot attack or retreat. To represent Asleep, the Pokémon that is affected by this Special Condition is rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise.
Attach: The act of placing a card onto another card.
Attacking Pokémon: The current turn in which the Pokémon is able to attack.
Basic Pokémon: The most basic of levels, can be placed onto the Bench from a player’s hand. Is required in other to evolve into a Stage 1 Pokémon.
BREAK Pokémon: An Evolution Pokémon, BREAK Pokémon is placed on top of the Pokémon it evolves from. The Pokémon retains the HP, weakness, resistance, retreat cost, attacks, energy costs, and abilities of the Pokémon it evolves from. Cannot be used in conjunction with Rare Candy.
Burned: Pokémon affected by Burn must flip a coin (or roll a dice) between each player’s turn and must place two damage counters on the afflicted Pokémon. If heads, the Pokémon is no longer Burned. If tails, the Pokémon remains Burned. To represent Burned, the Pokémon that is affected by this Special Condition is given a Burn token or counter.
Confused: Pokémon affected by Confusion must flip a coin (or roll a dice) should the affected Pokémon choose to attack. If heads, the Pokémon can attack normally, but is still Confused. If tails, the Pokémon attack fails and takes three damage counters, and remains Confused. A Confused Pokémon may retreat. To represent Confusion, the Pokémon that is affected by this Special Condition is turned upside-down or turned 180 degrees.
Damage Counter: One damage counter is equal to 10 damage of HP. Damage counters are sometimes not considered an attack if damage counters come from card effects, stadiums, and as an effect from an ability or attack.
Defending Pokémon: The Pokémon that is receiving damage from the Attacking Pokémon.
Effects from Attacks: The effect an attack confers is described within the attack textbox of a Pokémon.
Energy Card: Energy cards are a type of card that is required for attacks to work. Every attack has an energy cost, once achieved, the Pokémon may use that attack.

Evolve: The action of evolving a Pokemon is simple, place the Pokemon card that specifically “evolves from” the Pokemon mentioned on top of its pre-evolution. Pokemon can evolve from your hand or by card effects such as Evosoda and Rare Candy (which can evolve from Basic to Stage 2). Do note that in order for evolution to occur, the pre-evolution must be placed on the playing field for at least one turn.
Evolution Pokémon: These class of cards include Stage 1, Stage 2, BREAK, and Mega Pokémon. All Pokémon that can evolve can only evolve the turn AFTER its pre-evolution is placed in play.
EX: A class of Pokémon cards, all EX Pokémon are considered Basic Pokémon, unless specified. When Knocked Out, the opponent takes two prize cards instead of one.
Flip: An action to flip or roll a dice to determine the effects of an ability, card, stadium, special condition, or attack.
GX: A class of Pokémon cards, GX Pokémon are considered Basic, Stage 1, or Stage 2 Pokémon. When Knocked Out, the opponent takes two prize cards instead of one.
GX Attack: GX Attacks are exclusive to GX Pokémon, these attacks can only be used once per game. Once a GX attack is used, the player who used it cannot use another GX attack until that game ends.
Knock Out: A Pokémon is Knocked Out when its HP reaches 0 or lower. All cards attached to the Knocked-Out Pokémon is discarded, including Tools, other Pokémon it evolved from, and energies. Damage Counters are removed.
Mega Pokémon: A class of Pokémon cards that evolves from EX Pokémon. Mega Pokémon follow the Mega Evolution rule, in that the moment a Pokémon is evolved into a Mega Pokémon, that player’s turn who evolved the Pokémon ends, unless a Spirit Link Tool card is attached for that specific Pokémon.
Paralyzed: Pokémon affected by Paralysis cannot attack or retreat for one turn. The Pokémon is cured of Paralysis in between player turns or by card effect if Paralysis was present at the beginning of that player’s turn.. To represent Paralysis, the Pokémon that is affected by this Special Condition is rotated 90 degrees clockwise.
Poisoned: Pokémon affected by Poison must place one damage counter on the afflicted Pokémon in between each player’s turn. Poisoned Pokémon may retreat and attack. To represent Poison, the Pokémon that is affected by this Special Condition is given a Poison token or counter.
Prism Star: A class of Pokémon cards, unlike other cards, only one Prism Star of the same name can be used in a deck. Additionally, should the card be Knocked Out or discarded it goes into the Lost Zone, instead of the Discard Pile.
Special Condition: Special conditions are afflictions on a Pokémon, which consist of asleep, burned, confused, paralysis, and poison. The moment the affected Pokémon is on the Bench, regardless of through ability, retreating, or a card effect, the Special Condition is cured. Some card effects, attacks, and abilities can also cure a Pokémon of a Special Condition. Trainer cards can be used on Pokémon affected with a Special Condition. Pokémon can be affected by multiple Special Conditions; however, cannot be affected by Asleep, Confusion, or Paralysis at the same time. Pokémon can be Burned, Poisoned, and one of the following: Asleep, Paralyzed, or Confused at the same time.
Special Energy: This class of energy cards have the classification of Special Energy, which indicates that no more than four of the same name can be used in a deck. Cards still provide energy according to the text, but can be targeted by cards that discard Special Energy cards.
Stage 1: An Evolution Pokémon, Stage 1 Pokémon can be placed on top of a Basic Pokémon. All abilities, attacks, weaknesses, type, HP, Retreat Cost, resistances, name are replaced by that Stage 1 Pokémon.
Stage 2: An Evolution Pokémon, Stage 2 Pokémon can be placed on top of a Basic Pokémon. All abilities, attacks, weaknesses, type, HP, Retreat Cost, resistances, name are replaced by that Stage 2 Pokémon.
Tag Team GX: A new class of Pokémon cards, Tag GX Pokémon are powerful Pokémon that has artwork focusing on two or more Pokémon. When Knocked Out, the opponent takes three prize cards instead of one.

Meta Terms

This part of the glossary is to cover words you will hear while playing the Pokemon TCG. Many of these terms are shorthand, abbreviations, acronyms, or nicknames given for meta oriented cards, strategies, and terms.

7-Prize Game: a game when essentially 7-prizes are needed to win (i.e. 3 GX/EX Pokemon are knocked out, but in between a 1-prize Pokemon is knocked out 2+1+2+2 =7).

Acceleration: The ability to advance the board states quickly (i.e. energy, pokemon, etc.)

Auto-win/loss: a deck that has an extremely exploitable weakness/strength against another deck.

Band/Banded: See the card Choice Band or Muscle Band.

BCIF: Best Card In Format.

BDIF: Best Deck In Format.

Bench Sitter: A card that serves no attacking purpose but can have great support importance, but is essentially useless once the support effect is used (i.e. Tapu Lele-GX or Shaymin-EX).

Blower: see the card Field Blower.

Board State: The current or potential timeframe or look of the play zone.

Brick: see Dead Hand

Bubble: In tournament many people will have similar records to make Top Cut, those who do not make it have “bubbled out”, those who do are “bubbled in”.

Clunky: Inconsistent

CP: Championship Points, a certain amount of CP is required in order to get an invite to the Pokemon Worlds Championship. CP is awarded at official Pokemon sanctioned events.

Cut/cutting: To split a deck in some manner, a common courtesy after an opponent has shuffled his/her deck.

DCE: See the card Double Colorless Energy.

DDE: see the card Double Dragon Energy.

Dead Draw: A draw that brings no new options and the player cannot use any of the cards drawn.

Dead Hand: A hand, no matter how many cards, is essentially useless for the time being. No new moves can be played.

Deck-out: A deck that has no more cards that can be drawn at the beginning of the turn can be considered decked-out. If you or your opponent has a deck-out, you or your opponent loses the

GX Token/counter: A small piece to represent GX Attack use.

Hammer: See the card Enhanced Hammer or Crushing Hammer. These cards are to discard energy from an opposing Pokemon.

Hexed: Under the effects of the card Hex Maniac (banned)

ID: Intentional Draw.

Judge: Not the card Judge. A person who is hired by event or tournament staff to interpret the rules and resolve any discrepancies or misplays. Many go through the Pokemon ProfessorProgram to be officially sanctioned by Pokemon Company International.

Lock: A state in which a certain class of cards are unable to be played or when a player’s board state is static for multiple turns.

Matchup: The head-to-head face off of decks.

Meta: Short for the metagame, the metagame is the current field of common winning strategies through a combination of cards, tactics, and strategy.

Meta call: A meta call is when a player makes a deck that does very well against the current field of tactics and strategies.

Mill: A strategy that aims to win the game by decking-out your opponent through discarding the opponent’s cards.

Mirror: The same.

Mirror Match: A head-to-head match that involves two of the exact same archetypes or decks.

Misplay: An error in playing. Can be referred to playing a card out of turn or at the wrong time or when a player makes a mistake.

Mulligan: When a player has no Basic Pokemon in his or her beginning seven cards, the opponent can take a Mulligan or draw one extra card for each Mulligan.

Net-decking: Copying a deck from the internet or other outside source.

OHKO: One Hit Knock Out.

Paired down/up: In tournament lower numbered tables means a set of players are doing well, paired up means one player has progressed from facing weaker opponents to stronger opponents,

Resource Management: The ability to control, know when to use or conserve resources (cards, when to draw, Pokemon use, ability use etc.)

Revenge KO: A Knock-out to take out another player’s Pokemon right after they had knocked out one of your Pokemon the turn before.

Rotation: Older card expansions and mini-sets are taken out of the current field of playable cards every year.

Rouge: A typically not used deck or non-meta deck.

Run/running: To have in the deck.

Scoop: Surrendering a game or match. Please do note you cannot ask your opponent to scoop (you can ask for a draw once).

Shuffling: The act of mixing up cards in a non-specific order to prevent cheating.

Snipe: The placing of damage counters or damage by card effects, abilities, or attacks on another Pokemon other than the Active Pokemon.

Spread: Attacks or decks that deal damage across multiple Pokemon on the Active Position and on the Bench.

Stall: An act that brings the game to a standstill. Some decks are called stall decks, because they do not advance the board state much and time out/deck-out the opponent.

Staples: Cards that are almost in every single deck.

Swiss: Swiss tournament pairing where the number of people a player faces is determined the number of people playing and who a player faces is based on other player’s standing.

Tech: The addition of certain cards to counter or prepare for a specific match up or deck.

THKO/2HKO: Two Hit Knock Out.

Tilt: A psychological state in which a player is unable to fully use all mental facilities to play at his or her best due to a variety of factors.

TOM: A tournament matching system The Pokemon Company International uses TOM to record results of matches and pairings.

Top Cut: In larger tournaments, the Top Cut consists of people who have placed within the cut-off mark. From this point forward the matches become single-elimination tournament style instead of swiss to determine a winner.

Top Deck: To draw a card from the top of your deck.

Trade: To give up a resource for another or to take an opponent's resource (i.e. Knock-Out, discarding energy).

Trade (Ability): Zoroark-GX’s ability, discard one card to draw two cards from your deck.

Trash: Bad.

Tutor/search: A series of cards that allow a player to go into his/her deck to find specific cards.

Whiff: To miss.


I hope this guide will help newer players learn the mechanics and know what other veteran players are talking about. Of course, like with any langugage the terms and prevalence of such terms may change over time as the meta evolves. Please check out our price resource guide at

More on PokeGoldfish ...


How to Ruin Your Opponent's Day

Have you ever wanted to absolutely ruin your opponent's joy? Well, thanks to Pandora, YOU CAN!

Apr 19 | by Richard McGuire
budget blast

Budget Blast: Web of Disruption ($20)

LiteralGrill shows off a deck that uses Galvantula to pack a punch without breaking your budget!

Apr 18 | by LiteralGrill
searching standard

Searching Standard: Nuzzle March Deck

This week Mike takes a look at a new take on the Lost March deck.

Apr 17 | by Mike Likes
creative concepts

Creative Concepts: Rule of Damage

LiteralGrill shows off a creative deck concept that damages your own Pokemon to achieve victory!

Apr 15 | by LiteralGrill

Next Article

Contact | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy

All original content on this page is © 2019 MTGGoldfish, Inc. and may not be used or reproduced without consent. Pokemon, The Pokemon TCG, and The Pokemon TCG Online and its trademarks are ©1995-2019 Nintendo, The Pokémon Company International, Inc, and GAMEFREAK. All rights reserved. MTGGoldfish, Inc. is not affiliated with Nintendo, The Pokémon Company International, Inc, or GAMEFREAK.