Often shadowed by the success of its video game counterpart, the Pokémon TCG is a fairly sizable and popular offshoot of the popular franchise that players were first introduced to back in 1996. It’s still going strong, with various tournaments, expansions, and a strong competitive scene. There are a multitude of different card types, with basic Pokémon, Trainer, Stadium. and Energy cards to name some. There are thousands of different Pokémon cards out there with tons of different ones released every year. With so many cards out there and such a strong competitive scene, there are bound to be some cards that are deemed too troublesome for competitive use.
A card can be banned for a number of reasons. It could have an easily exploitable ability, be used in tandem with another troublesome card or just not leave many options open for your opponent to counter. Either way, if it affects the player’s creativity when strategizing or just hurts the flow of the game in general, it’s gone. Be it a Pokémon, Trainer or Support, any card that threatens the TCG’s balance has likely been banned for some period of time while the Meta reworks itself. Some of these cards were barred years ago while others are more recent – and therefore relevant – bans.
So with that in mind, let’s go and look at 25 Pokémon cards so powerful they got banned.
25 Insert Name Here Pikachu
The idea behind this card is actually pretty neat. But its ability does make it kind of broken – if only once a year. Commonly referred to as Happy Birthday Pikachu, this card normally does 30 damage – except on the users birthday, where they then flip a coin and if heads, add on another 50 damage to the attack.
You can imagine how that kind of ability would’ve gotten out of hand quick. The card was quickly banned seeing as any given player could claim that it was their birthday whenever they felt like it.
It’s funny to think that a Pokémon as fundamentally mediocre as Wormadam found a niche within the TCG. First released as part of the Secret Wonders expansion, Wormadam was banned from the 2008 North American Professor Cup.
The card’s Sandy Cloak ability prevented all effects of attacks done to it – with the exception of damage. Its Push Over attack was also fairly tricky to deal with as it did 40 damage on the spot, with an additional 10 for each Fighting Energy attached to Sandy Cloak.
This next card was banned for a pretty long time when the first TCG modified format debuted back in 2001. At its peak this Sneasel card was in pretty much everyone’s deck – and for good reason, as it could tip the scales pretty quickly.
The card did massive amounts of damage given all the set-up needed was done correctly and everything went smoothly. With the ability to do an average of 80-140 damage per turn you can see why it was singled out so quickly.
This next card is a support that was banned due to its use in tandem with some other cards. When used along with Red Card and Peeking Red Card, they would create a situation where the game was essentially won (or lost) after the first few turns.
It was a strategy that could be pulled off successfully most of the time and whenever things like that become commonplace it just takes the fun and challenge out of whatever you’re doing. So the ban here is justified.
21 Puzzle of Time
Here’s yet another card that was banned due to how it was used in tandem with some others. First released as a part of the BREAKpoint expansion, Puzzle of Time was banned last August because it could be used to shut down opponent’s decks pretty easily.
The idea behind banning the card was so that players who relied on it for the aforementioned combos would reconsider how to structure their decks and thus, give the Expanded format a fresh take.
This next card seemed to cause problems due to a stipulation changing between the Japanese and English versions of the TCG. The Neo Genesis Slowking has an ability called Mind Games that in the Japanese version was only activated if Slowking was the player’s active Pokémon.
With the removal of this stipulation in the English release, players were able to overuse this ability. Often times players would use the ability from the bench with multiple Slowking cards. This greatly affected how successfully your opponent would be able to play a Trainer Card. The problems it caused made it an easy choice for banning in 2002.
19 Hex Maniac
A fairly useful Supporter Card, Hex Maniac has a pretty annoying ability that can really mess up some players out the gate. In fact, it was banned due to the fear that it would limit how creative players could be when playing the game.
The card essentially nixes any Pokémon’s ability until the opponents next turn. Seeing as how so many different strategies, combos, and plays are reliant on Pokémon card abilities, the decision to ban this card was probably a good one.
18 Jumbo Unova Starters
These next cards weren’t really banned due to their inherently broken abilities, but their monstrous size. These Jumbo Unova starter cards are more novelty than anything else. Though if you look at their abilities you can guess they wouldn’t have been too fun to deal with if they were put out there as normal cards.
The Oshawott card is by far the most broken of the bunch as it deals 100 damage to your opponents benched Pokémon. The other two’s abilities aren’t nearly as impressive.
This next entry seems like it was put into circulation for the sole purpose of being banned after a while. The Unkown have always been a creepy and mysterious bunch, but it doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to figure out why this card was banned. All you have to do is look at its ability.
The ability can be used once per turn before you (the player) attacks. It states that if you have a total of 66 or more damage counters on your Benched Pokémon, you can activate the ability and end the game right there. That doesn’t sound fun for anybody involved.
This next card was banned in due part to its potential use with another banned card that we’ll cover a little later. The Next Destinies Shiftry never really saw much competitive use, and you can thank its quick ban for that one.
Using Shiftry along with Forest of Giant Plants made it so that players could spam its Giant Fan ability. That ability makes it possible to flip a coin and if heads, force your opponent to shuffle one of their Pokémon and the cards attached to them back into their deck.
Another card that was – at least partly – banned due to its possible pairing with another card on this list, this Archeops card can really make life difficult for players whose decks are reliant on evolution.
Simply put, its Ancient Power ability makes it so that each player can’t play any Pokémon from their hand that would evolve their Pokémon. It was determined that this was an unfair strategy to use against players who relied heavily on evolution and limited a wide variety of strategies.
Our next ban comes from the TCG Online. Part of the Burning Shadows expansion, this Weavile has a particularly troublesome ability called Rule of Evil that does 60 damage to each Pokémon that has an ability – regardless of whose.
The reason that it was temporarily banned from the online game is that the ability was being exploited due to a bug. Klefki, Electrode, and Shedinja, while in the discard pile, were still treated as in play cards when damage from Rule of Evil took place. This resulted in more Prize cards being distributed than intended and was exploited pretty easily prior to the ban/patch.
13 Forest Of Giant Plants
When looking through the TCG ban list, you’ll every so often come across a card that seems like it was made with the intention of eventually being banned. Forest of Giant Plants is one of those cards.
Simply put, this card makes it possible for players to evolve their Grass-type Pokémon on either their first turn or the turn that they play the Pokémon they wish to evolve. The ban makes sense, as this made Grass-type strategies way too easy to pull off.
12 Ninja Boy
Another Online TCG card that was temporarily banned due to an easily exploitable bug, Ninja Boy wasn’t off the table for too long. It was reinstated just a day after the ban was announced. So what was all the fuss about?
It seems that when used on a benched Pokémon affected by Metal Fortress, Bench Barrier, or Defense Sign, the cards ability – switching one basic Pokémon in play with another basic Pokémon in your deck – allowed those affects to remain active after the new Pokémon was brought out.
11 Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick
This card is simple enough to understand and put to use, and because of that can be exploited pretty easily. When you take that into consideration, it being banned makes perfect sense.
You can only use Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick when it is the last card in your hand. Its ability allows you to pull a Fighting-type Pokémon from your discard pile into your bench. Doing so allows you to draw 5 cards. Add in a few of these to your deck and you can see why it got banned.
Ghetsis was a huge pain to deal with in the games, and that sentiment seems to have carried over to the TCG as well. The Plasma Freeze expansion Ghetsis card had the potential to make any game incredibly one-sided from the get-go. Which is probably why it was banned.
The card forces your opponent to show their hand and then shuffle all of their Item cards back into the deck. Afterwards, the player who put Ghetsis down draws a number of cards that is equal to how many Item cards their opponent shuffled away.
Thinking back to how Wally is in the games, it’s hard to picture him being overpowered in any way. But this Roaring Skies Supporter card was quickly banned due to its being used in tandem with a certain Pokémon card.
Wally’s ability basically makes evolution a whole lot easier. When used along with Trevenant’s ability it was easily exploited and made it harder for other players to come up with counters. The card was in circulation for a while before getting banned, so you have to think that this was a well thought out decision.
Here’s yet another card that was temporarily banned from TCG Online, only to be brought back a short while later. The card was banned due to a bug that allowed players to use the Volcanic Heat ability of the card more often than intended.
The Volcanic Heat ability does a monstrous 130 damage. But this is mitigated by a one-turn cool-off period. However, a problem with the online TCG allowed players to take advantage and spam the move. The card was banned for 2 weeks while the bug was patched out.
7 Various Imakuni Cards
Japanese comedian Tomoaki Imakuni isn’t exactly a household name here in the West, but he’s a well-known Pokémon fan in his homeland. Imakuni has a rather eccentric personality and is featured in a number of fairly zany TCG cards.
These cards aren’t meant to be taken or played seriously. They’re more of a novelty than anything else. Most of these cards have ridiculous abilities. Like Imakuni's Whismur, which makes it so that neither player can talk while the card is in play. The Imakuni? Card is particularly noteworthy for how useless it is, as all it really does is confuses your own Pokémon.
6 Shadow Lugia
After a little bit of reading up on this next card, you’d have to figure that it was never meant to be played seriously or competitively. The Shadow Lugia card is pretty much a promotional item and nothing more.
There are a couple of things that are off with this card. For starters, it’s a jumbo card and therefore was never meant to be used in tournaments and such to begin with. Another indicator is the ridiculous amount of damage (1000) its Shadow Storm ability does.
5 Ancient Mew
The Ancient Mew card was acquired via a promotional giveaway for the Power of One movie back in 2000. Though it certainly had an eye caching design, the card was never meant to be used seriously.
The card is written out entirely in Futhark Runic and Gothenburg Runes, making it fairly hard to read without a sheet to decipher them. This is pretty much the whole reason why this card is banned. You can’t exactly go around using a card your opponent can’t read/understand. It would be way too easy to just make things up on the spot.
This is one of the newer cards in our list. Compared to some of the other cards on this list, this Lusamine Supporter card doesn’t exactly have the most head-turning ability. But hey, it was banned for a reason, right?
This card allows you to take any two Support and Stadium cards out from your discard pile and put them back into your hand. If you were to carry a few of these that could open up some pretty broken plays. It’s easy to see why it was banned.
3 Hypnotoxic Laser
Talk about kicking your opponent while they’re down. Hypnotoxic Laser wasn’t exactly the most popular card for those on the receiving end of it. The card not only poisoned opposing Pokémon, but with the help of a coin flip, also had the potential to put them to sleep as well.
The card was banned from the 2013 North American Professor Cup and was a popular choice when used alongside Whirlipede. Using Whirlipede’s Venoshock on a poisoned Pokemon did a whopping 70 damage. That’s a pretty foolproof strategy.
2 Lysandre's Card
It’s a card that has a pretty simple ability, though it could still wreak havoc on a match should the user know how to play it properly. Lysandre’s Card makes it so that each player has to shuffle every card in their discard pile into their deck.
There were a few concerns raised around what this would mean for players. Using the card made it much harder for players to run out of cards in their deck which is a victory condition for the other player. It also allowed the reuse of various Trainer cards and made battles much longer.
1 Tropical Beach
The reasoning behind banning Tropical Beach wasn’t so much focused on what it could do – but rather the likelihood of acquiring it. The card was given out at both the 2011 and 2012 Worlds Championship – with two different versions of the card out there.
The card has a pretty useful ability that allows the player to draw cards until they have seven in their hand. This is used once each turn. Its ability, along with its rarity made it an easy choice to ban.