The purpose of this article is to give an introduction to the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online (PTCGO) client for beginning competitive players. This may be players who are intending to play entirely on PTCGO but would like to use competitive “meta” decks, or players who also intend to play in real-life tournaments but wish to use PTCGO for practice.

PTCGO can be downloaded from the official Pokémon website at The system requirements are also visible at that link.

PTCGO is not the most cutting-edge, RAM-devouring program out there, but it is still prone to running with considerable lag on older or cluttered computers. If you are using an older computer, considering freeing up storage if possible, or closing unnecessary applications when you are running PTCGO. The game is playable with lag, but much less enjoyable.

The program is free to download, but if you are intending to play the Pokémon Trading Card Game competitively, you will likely need to invest some money for PTCGO Codes in order to fill out your online collection. Just as if you were building a collection of physical cards, the most efficient way to build decks is to attempt to acquire the specific cards you need via trades or purchases, rather than by attempting to “pull” cards from packs. I will cover the process of acquiring cards in greater depth in the “Trading and building your collection” section. For now, suffice it to say that if you have been holding onto the “code cards” that you purchased on , you can enter them into Pokemon TCG Online Game Client in order to obtain packs. To do this, click on the yellow gift box icon directly to the left of the logo in the top center of the screen. You can then enter the 13-digit code on the back of each code card, or scan the QR codes using your computer’s camera.

Intro to PTCGO

I’ll go over the other basic tabs and features in PTCGO to get some more familiarity with the client:

Play button:This is how you will actually play games. Clicking this button will let you choose from:
  • Trainer Challenge
  • Versus
  • Events
  • Tutorial
If you have never played the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online before, you will likely wish to play through the Tutorial to learn the basic rules of the game. However, this guide assumes you are already familiar with the basic rules of play and are intending to take the next step to competitive play, whether online, physically, or both. The Trainer Challenge, which pits you against AI players using very poorly built decks, can be a way to obtain a few coins and packs and get some practice for players who are just starting out, but is also not relevant to competitive play. For high-level play, you will either be playing on the “ladder” (Versus matches) against players of a similar skill level, or playing in the eight-player single-elimination brackets in Events, competing for packs.

Three cards button: This dropdown can take you to the Deck Manager (where you will actually build your decks), your Collection (where you can see the cards, packs, and other items you currently own), and the Trade function (where you can trade cards, packs, and other items with friends or post them on the public trade server). I’ll go more in-depth with the Trade feature in the “Trading and building your collection” section, and the Deck Manager and Collection features in the “Trading” section.

Head button: Under this button, you can view your profile and customize your avatar; view your current Challenges (small tasks, such as “do 1000 damage with Dark-type Pokemon, that can earn you coins or packs); and view statistics related to your account. It’s nice to have your avatar customized the way you want it, as it will be visible to other players when you play in Versus and Events matches, and the Challenges can be a useful way to accumulate small amounts of coins or packs, but there is not much under this tab related to competitive play.

Shopping cart button: This takes you to PTCGO’s shop, where you can purchase packs using coins, which are the in-game currency. Packs cost 200 coins each, and any packs purchased from the shop are “locked,” meaning they cannot be traded, only opened. Since this means the “save coins and buy packs from the shop” method of accumulating cards is reliant on “pulls,” and therefore luck-based, it is not the preferred method of obtaining cards for competitive players. The preferred method is to enter code cards to obtain tradeable packs, then trade those packs for the specific cards you need. You can also obtain some tradeable packs from doing well in Events. I will go over all this in much more detail in the Trades section. For now, know that it is never a bad idea to use your coins on packs from the shop, since there is no other real reason to save them, but cards from those “shop packs” should be considered a bonus to your collection, not the main method of acquiring cards.
You can also purchase theme decks for 500 coins in the shop. These are pre-constructed 60-card decks that are legal for tournament play, but will not win you many (probably not any) games in a competitive setting. There can be a few strong cards included in the theme decks but those would still be untradeable and not really enough to efficiently build your collection. I’ll have a bit more to say about theme decks in the next section. If you do wish trad-able Cards or even pre-constructed 60-card decks you can always buy the codes for them.

Gift box button: As mentioned, this is where you will input codes from code cards to obtain virtual packs.

PTCGO logo (top center of screen): Clicking this takes you to the homepage of the client, where you can log out or exit the game.

Gears button: The game settings are located here, along with the terms of use, privacy statement, and another button to exit the game. I’ll briefly go over everything you can adjust in the settings:
  1. Playmat Options: You can toggle “tips” on or off (the default state is on). An example of a “tip” in PTCGO would be an Energy card in your hand glowing so that you do not forget to use your Energy attachment for the turn. Most players leave this on, as it can help cut down on misplays, but obviously this is not a perk you will have in physical play, so you can turn it off if you so choose. You can also toggle the animations to a lower-quality setting, which may increase the pace of your games and also make the program run faster.
  2. Arrange Energy: This toggles whether Energy in your hand appear at the front or the back of your hand. This is a very minor detail, but some players have a preference based on their habits from physical play; for example, I typically hold my Energy in the back of my hand when I am playing with physical cards.
  3. Sort Pokémon: Similar to the above option, you can choose whether Pokémon in your hand are sorted by Type, Stage, or Evolution level. Again, this is not something particularly impactful for gameplay, but it is nice to have the option.
  4. Deck List Sharing: You can choose to make your deck lists publicly visible (all opponents can view your list after matches conclude), visible only to friends (my preferred setting), or completely invisible. If you are testing a “secret” deck on the ladder, you will probably want to turn this setting to “Do Not Share.”
  5. Video Options: You can choose the screen resolution for the program, choose to display the game as a window instead of full-screen (which may be useful for applications such as streaming or testing with a spreadsheet or notes), and toggle the performance settings between “fastest” and “best-looking” (doesn’t particularly matter on a new/high-end computer, but if the game is running slowly on your computer, set this to “fastest”).
  6. Audio Options: Adjust the levels of the sounds, music, and master volume.
  7. Card Cache: You can choose to download the entirety of the PTCGO card database (every card from HeartGold & SoulSilver onwards) to your computer’s hard drive. This will prevent card images from buffering when you encounter a card in-game that you have not played against before, but it is not necessary to do. You can also click a button to un-download the cache from your hard drive.

Three heads with arrow button

Intro to PTCGO

Two heads tab: This shows your friends list, with green profiles indicating that player is online and gray profiles indicating that player is offline. You can send a new friend request by clicking on the button showing a head with a plus sign.

Intro to PTCGO
To interact with a friend when they are online, click on the head button next to their profile.
  • Two heads with lightning button: Challenge this player to a match.
  • Chat message button: Open the chat with this player.
  • Head with minus sign button: Remove this friend.
  • Circle with line button: Block this player.
  • Hazard sign button: Report this player.
Chat message tab: This shows messages you have exchanged with friends as well as a general chat lobby. There is no reason to ever use the general lobby. If you are playing in an online tournament, you might use the player-to-player chat to communicate with an opponent, but more likely you will just use Discord, Facebook, or another program specified by the tournament organizer.

Envelope tab: This actually shows notifications from the game; the most important one will be a notification that one of your trades has been accepted, although this notification will also pop up on the center of your screen when that occurs.

In addition to all these buttons and tabs, your current counts of coins and tickets are shown on the left-hand side of the screen, to the left of the Settings button.

Trading and building your collection

I’ve already mentioned that the best way to go about building a competitive deck is not to purchase packs from the shop, or to open the packs you input via code cards, because you do not want to rely on luck (“pulls”) to obtain cards. Instead, you want to trade your unlocked packs for the specific cards you need for your deck. There are two ways to acquire unlocked packs:
  1. purchase physical Pokémon Trading Card Game products on Potown Store with instant email delivery of your codes and input the code cards that come with these products
  2. earn packs from doing well in Events
The first option requires a monetary investment, but this should be clear to anyone with the goal of competing at a high level in this game or in any competitive hobby. The only way to obtain free unlocked packs is from Events. However, playing in an Event requires tickets, which are difficult to obtain on PTCGO; the pack payout is not particularly high unless you win the event; and most importantly, you won’t be able to do well in Events if you don’t have a competitive deck, which you will need to purchase Pokemon TCG code cards to make in the first place. Thus, an investment in code cards is typically the first step you’ll need to make to build your PTCGO collection.
You can post a trade offer for a specific card or group of cards by clicking “Create Trade” and then selecting “Public Trade.” Then, search for the card or group of cards you want to acquire under “I Am Getting,” then click over to “I Am Giving” and select the packs (or cards) you will be trading away, then click “Done” at the top right. Note that you will need to go into your Collection and tag packs or cards for trade (click the double arrow button on the right-hand side of the card or pack) in order to be able to trade them. (you will not be able to mark for trade cards, that you’ve obtained with the game coins)
You can also browse offers that others have posted; sometimes you can find bargains here, or you can use it to estimate pack values of cards so you can post your own trade. Click on “Public Offers” to do this. If you click on the dropdown menu at the top left of this screen, you can further adjust the search settings. For example, by clicking on “cards” in this menu, you can look for cards you want to acquire or cards you want to give, or sort cards by expansion.

When first building a PTCGO collection, you will likely want to acquire “staple” cards so you can build a variety of decks and adjust to new archetypes as they are released or as they enter the metagame. Few Examples from latest expansion Sword & Shield Rebel Clash:
  • Eldegoss V RCL 19
  • Boss' Orders RCL 154
  • Scoop Up Net RCL 165
  • Tool Scrapper RCL 168
I mentioned earlier that there is occasionally reason to purchase theme decks from the shop— two theme decks that contain a few staple cards are Laser Focus (which contains some good cards for the Malamar archetype) and Battle Mind (which contains some good cards for Fire Toolbox or other Welder-based archetypes). The three Sword & Shield theme decks also contain some good staple Trainers. Beyond these, most other theme decks do not really contain enough staples to ever be worth buying.

Once you have a suitable collection built up and have a couple of meta decks constructed, you can earn further packs from competing in Events. When I want to grind for a few packs to trade for a handful of cards I might need, but you cannot afford code cards online, a strategy I use is to play in the Expanded tournaments. The reason for this is that you are very likely to encounter at least one, and likely more, opponents in these tournaments who are extremely poor players using extremely poor lists. I believe that many players who only play PTCGO at a beginner-casual level play in these Expanded tournaments because they lack knowledge of deckbuilding, and simply throw together a deck with their favorite Pokemon or with any cards in their collection, which often include cards that are legal only in Expanded. In any case, if you have even a small amount of knowledge of competitive play (such as sequencing, resource management, Prize mapping, and deckbuilding), you should be able to routinely beat the caliber of players in these tournaments, which is an easy way to farm packs.

Deckbuilding resources

Although this isn’t a deckbuilding advice article, I think it’s worthwhile for players who are just getting into this game in any form (not just new to PTCGO) to have some tips and resources for constructing competitive decks. (If you are already familiar with competitive play but are just here for tips on setting up PTCGO, feel free to skip this section.)

The “theme deck” style you may have seen when you were introduced to this game is dramatically different from the decks top players use to place highly at tournaments such as Regionals. (Players coming from other card games, such as Magic, will probably be familiar with stuff like this.) In these competitive decks, you will see a more streamlined approach centering around a core strategy (usually a small number of Pokemon), a high number of Trainers, and usually a lower count of Energy relative to theme decks.

The best resource to find top-performing decklists from tournaments is our other Decklist Articles or Limitless TCG. On Limitless, you can look at specific formats or tournaments, or rank decks by various metrics of success, to find one or more that you would like to build.

So if you’re new to this game and do wish to build up your collection, check out for all kind of Pokemon Trading Card Game Online Codes. They are all tradeable so you will be able to use them or trade them to your friends!