By Becca Mander
Some might say that legendary Pokemon have lost their sparkle over the years. These people might say that movie upon movie filled with legendary appearances have cheapened them. They may also go on to say that, aided by the popularity of the Action Replay, their desirability for the casual video game player has also diminished to something of a faint spark. For competitive video game players, most legendary Pokemon are classed as ‘Uber’, and banned accordingly. In the card game, legendary Pokemon have also become sidelined. Gone are the days of decks incorporating the majestic Rayquaza Star and Mew ex, and soon, even the glittery bordered level X cards of Mewtwo, Uxie and Regigigas will become obsolete for competitive play. Decks are now supported by the diminutive Cleffa, while the heavy hitters progress from Gyarados and Garchomp to Yanmega, Jumpluff, Cinccino, Samurott, Magnezone… not a legend to be seen. Or so some might say.
What’s your take on legendary Pokemon? Are they defunct, just a draw for kids? There’s no denying that legendaries do not pack such a powerful punch as they did back in the halcyon days of the first generation; in my area, Mewtwo was IT. If you caught Mewtwo on Pokemon Blue, you were IT. If you owned a Base Set Mewtwo, then you too were IT. Charizard, that rare starter whose draconic form just reeked of legend, was THE most desirable Pokemon around. But now, after four further generations of critters and with the advent of Pokemon Black and White, there is a sizable roster of “legendary” Pokemon, from elemental birds to monochrome dragons, and their scarcity and mystery would seem to be irreparably hindered by their sheer number.
However, I’m not of the opinion that all is lost for legendaries. Here’s why.
The TCG: Card art
I think one of their saving graces is the prodigious art they have within the trading cards. The arrival of the HeartGold & SoulSilver expansion brought with it a new card mechanic; the Legend. The eponymous stars of these cards are captured in full shimmering glory across two segments, each the size of an ordinary card. They have arguably very limited uses within the game itself, but as collection pieces they are beautiful additions. The majority of these depict a scene of battle between two legendary Pokemon: the top half boasts the best part of the picture while the bottom hosts the attacks, bodies and powers, allowing the holofoil effect of the card to sparkle through.
Legendary Pokemon have previously been featured in the coveted ‘Star’ cards, ultra rare pieces from the EX series that depict a Pokemon in its ‘shiny’ form. Normally, these forms are of an inverted colour scheme. Mewtwo and Mew, along with Kyogre, Groudon, the Regi trio, Suicune, Raikou, Entei, Latios and Latias have had their own ‘Star’ card, alongside the omnipresent Charizard, and so have other firm fan favourites, such as Pikachu and the first five evolutions of Eevee.
The art is dynamic, and pictures the Pokemon in motion. A smattering of holofoil is added too. These cards were a lovely platform for the legendaries, but, when one thinks of the ‘Star’ cards, one generally thinks of the Japanese Player’s editions of the Eeveelutions; the rarest and most valuable of the collection, and the black Charizard and green Espeon are generally held in highest regard when it comes to the English versions. So, legendaries don’t come out on top here.
However, one of the most recent secret rare collection – the SL cards from the ‘Call of Legends’ expansion – features legendaries exclusively, and are gorgeous from the sparkling borders inwards to the striking ‘shiny’ creatures themselves. ‘Call of Legends’, widely regarded as a flop of a filler set, was not wonderfully received. Few boxes were bought by players and so fewer collections of these secret cards (at a pull rate of two per box) were obtained immediately. In my opinion, these cards really did the legendaries they pictured justice, with atmospheric backgrounds that pleasingly contrasted the colours of the Pokemon, and carrying that all-important cosmic-style holofoil. Their regular set counterparts are quite alluring too, and both sets, with their too-expensive attacks and pitiful HP, at least do proud the legendaries in artwork if not stats.
Looking back over earlier sets, the art on legendary cards has been a little hit and miss. A definite hit with me was Shining Mewtwo, from the Neo: Destiny expansion; an intense silvery violet figure embossed on a dreamy blue attack-style background (a great Mewtwo vehicle, especially with the triple star rarity emblem), while the odd miss would include perhaps the rather bland Kyogre ex cards, particularly the non-holo promo one. Despite this, the latest English set, ‘Black & White’ has introduced an interesting new card class; the full art Reshiram and Zekrom. Although these cards miss out of the secret rare status – this is handed to Pikachu – their innovative design and bold monochrome colour scheme has made them a hit with both collectors and players alike; while the collector appreciates the design for its seminal status, the rise of new decks featuring the two dragons, such as Reshiboar and ZPS, augments the value of the full art cards among players. Four of these look so much better sleeved and decked than the normal set holos!
The full art cards feature Reshiram on a stark white background and Zekrom on a black one respectively. The text of the card is laid over the image itself, while the red and yellow energy symbols contrast shockingly with the bleakness of the backgrounds. They are gorgeous things, and contribute well to the status of legendary Pokémon as collectible, desirable and beautiful.
Well, this concludes my little look at legendary card art. I hope this article has stirred the collector inside of you, and renewed an appreciation for legendary Pokemon! Thanks for reading.
Tags: Card Collecting