One of the great laments of the Pokémon TCG in 2023 was its return to brutal, unforgiving pull rates. After 2022’s Sword & Shield big finish, Crown Zenith, the Scarlet & Violet era ushered in the guarantee of a holo, but a vast diminishing in the chances of scoring anything better. Sets like Pokémon 151 and Paradox Rift have featured some of the most beautiful cards we’ve ever seen, but it’s been pretty miserable trying to find them. So it is with absolutely enormous pleasure that I can report that Paldean Fates, the latest special set releasing internationally tomorrow, is just bonkers with pulls.
Paldean Fates is the latest outing for shiny Pokémon—those depicted as a different color than their norm—following in the footsteps of the wildly popular Hidden Fates and Shining Fates. But this knocks both out of the park with your chances of striking something special. Of the 36 packs I’ve opened (25 of them supplied by TPCi), I’ve pulled—and I’m not kidding—27 baby shinies or better.
Who can fathom the rationale at The Pokémon Company International (TPCi), why we have sets like Obsidian Flames with secret rare pull rates lower than one in five packs (18% according to TCGPlayer), and then one like Paldean Fates that—in my limited experience—is hitting far better than one in two. Why does this matter? Because if you’re a kid who’s spending your whole weekly allowance on a couple of packs, going in knowing the odds of getting anything other than bulk are minimal makes it a miserable experience. I have a feeling pocket money is going to be much more merrily spent on this new set, however.
Let’s explain terms. “Baby shinies” is the unhelpful name used to describe cards featuring shiny Pokémon in the regular art window. They’re not “baby Pokémon,” which are a whole other thing, rather just not full art cards. Yet, they remain special, because they’re rare, have their own unique holo pattern, and are highly collectible. And Paldean Fates contains a ridiculous 132 of them. Within the 33 packs I opened, I pulled 10 of these, with no duplicates.
The bulk is made up of a far smaller than usual number of cards, with 81 standard cards and 10 regular ex, all a mix of reprints and cards that hadn’t yet appeared from previous Japanese sets. After the baby shinies come 12 full art shinies (designated “shiny ultra rare”), three fantastic illustration rares, five ultra rares (all of them trainers), eight special illustration rares, and six of the brand new style cards, the turquoise-and-gold raised foils here designated “hyper rare.”
Of my very unscientifically small sample size, I scored six ex cards (somehow including three Great Tusk exes, two from the same Elite Trainer Box), three ultra rares (again, two of them the same Judge), four shiny ultra rares, two illustration rares (both the same! Argh!), and two (different!) of the brand new style hyper rares. It feels, but for the bad duplication luck, like such a great haul!
It certainly makes sense that releasing a set that has more special arts than bulk would do wonders for pulls, but Paradox Rift demonstrated that this isn’t necessarily the case. That set, which features an eye-watering 84 special art cards, is bloody miserable, a horrendous 17% chance of pulling anything above an ex.
There are those who argue that such generous pull rates are a bad thing, always motivated by approaching the Pokémon TCG as some sort of get-rich-quick scheme. The desire for pull rates to be low is driven by a desire for prices on specific cards to be high, and frankly they can shove off. It’s colorful cardboard aimed at kids. Sure, have a few chase cards in a set, and Paldean Fates has a handful—the Charizard ex SIR is going to be ridiculously pricey, and the Mew ex and Gardevoir ex alongside it won’t be cheap—but when you need to buy more than five packs to get one desirable card, it robs the pleasure from the game’s core audience. That was the case for every SV set so far, so thank God we’ve finally got something that bucks that trend.
The Elite Trainer Boxes, by the way, are as good as I’ve seen. Thankfully this special set doesn’t see a repeat of 151’s ghastly cheapo Player’s Guide, with full gloss restored to the Mimikyu-emblazoned collection. The box contents are the same as ever, but feel a step up in terms of design. The dividers are purple and silver, with a great pattern, while the purple Mimikyu sleeves look really classy. The color scheme continues in the purple/pink damage counters, and a really beautiful die with an iridescent center. The promo card, as we previously mentioned, is the adorable Mimikyu wrapped in a blanket, looked after by a sweet old lady. In the regular version of the ETB are nine packs of Paldean Fates, the Pokémon Center version containing eleven.
This is also the first time we’ve seen a special set release in the new, splendid booster bundles, which contain just six packs of cards and no other throwaway tat. However, if it’s the tat you’re after, the new triple packs now come with stickers, rather than coins.
It’s going to be fascinating to see the wider reaction to Paldean Fates, as people realize it makes Crown Zenith’s one-in-two pull rates look miserly. The resale value of cards will be cut off at the knees, infuriating those who hope to flip them rather than simply enjoy them. For kids and collectors, however, it’s a real pleasure. With those 132 baby shinies in the set, you’d be crazy to try to complete a binder, but this is finally a new era Pokémon TCG that won’t lead to endless disappointed faces.