Toy Corner

How to Get Started with Trading Card Games

May 31, 2024

table full of different trading card game collections

Collecting Trading Card Games began in the 90s when Magic the Gathering was first released in 1993. Now there are millions of people around the world collecting all different types of TCG and even competing in tournaments. When you are first starting out it can be quite daunting with the amount of different games and genres to choose from and even then, once picking out which trading card game that you are interested in, there is still a lot to learn regarding what kind of packs to buy. Many online and local communities have come out that can help any beginner and hopefully, this guide sets anyone on their way to begin their TCG journey.

Choosing Your First Trading Card Game

When choosing your first trading card game, several factors come into play. First, examine the gameplay complexity. Some TCGs, like Yu-Gi-Oh!, have intricate rules and a steep learning curve, while others, such as the Pokémon Trading Card Game, feature straightforward mechanics that appeal to beginners. Think about your patience and willingness to dive into complex strategies.

Next, look at the community and support. A game with a robust player base offers more opportunities for local tournaments, online forums, and social gatherings. Magic: The Gathering boasts an extensive, dedicated player community, with plenty of resources and events to participate in. Access to expanded materials can ease the learning process.

Don’t forget about collectability and expansions. Some players relish the thrill of collecting rare, valuable cards. With games like One Piece Trading Card Game, frequent expansions and unique cards add to the excitement. The diversity of new releases keeps the experience fresh and engaging.

Lastly, consider personal interest in the theme. Love the Pokémon universe? The Pokémon Trading Card Game blends nostalgic characters with competitive play. Fans of anime might gravitate towards Yu-Gi-Oh!, while fantasy enthusiasts find Magic: The Gathering captivating. An engaging storyline or familiar characters can make the game more enjoyable.

Popular Trading Card Games for Beginners

Several trading card games stand out as excellent options for beginners.

Pokémon Trading Card Game
Launched in 1996, this game is accessible and engaging, especially for younger audiences. Players use Pokémon cards to battle and knock out their opponent's characters. The gameplay is intuitive, making it easy for newcomers to learn and enjoy. Millions of players around the world appreciate its simplicity and connection to the beloved Pokémon franchise.

Magic: The Gathering
As the first successful TCG launched in 1993, Magic remains a cornerstone of the genre. Players summon creatures, cast spells, and strategise to defeat opponents. With over 20,000 unique cards, the depth of strategy available is unmatched. Regular expansions keep the game lively, and there are numerous resources and communities to support new players.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game
Based on the popular manga and anime series, Yu-Gi-Oh! began in 1999. Known for its complex rules and rich strategic gameplay, it appeals to those who enjoy deep, tactical challenges. The game features a vast array of cards, including monsters, traps, and spells. It enjoys tremendous popularity, especially in Asia, with a thriving tournament scene.

Essential Materials and Tools

Having the right materials and knowing what to buy makes a significant difference so below there is a list of items required for you to get started in the three most popular trading card games on the planet.

For Magic: The Gathering:

  • Starter deck or intro pack: These pre-constructed decks help in learning the basics.

  • Deck boxes: These store and protect the cards, especially valuable ones.

  • Card sleeves: Clear protective sleeves maintain card condition.

  • Playmat: Protects cards from damage and provides a designated playing area.

  • Dice (6-sided): Essential for tracking life totals and other game mechanics.

For Pokémon Trading Card Game:

  • Theme deck: A 60-card deck designed for beginners.

  • Elite Trainer Box: Includes packs, dice, condition markers, and other accessories.

  • Pokémon coins: Required for certain gameplay effects.

  • Deck shields or sleeves: Ensure the cards stay in good shape.

  • Playmat: Defines card zones and keeps the gameplay organised.

For Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game:

  • Starter Deck: A beginner's deck to understand the game.

  • Duel Disk (optional): A novelty item to hold cards during duels.

  • Card sleeves: Prevent wear and tear on cards.

  • Playmat: Offers a surface with designated fields for card placement.

  • Dice or counters: Used for tracking life points and other game elements.


Starter kits for trading card games are available from various sources. Local game stores often carry a wide range of products including individual cards, booster packs, and starter decks. These stores may also host events, offering a chance to learn and practice with other players.

Online retailers also provide an extensive selection of trading card game materials, Zippigames has a wide collection of trading card games available where you can buy Pokemon TCG in the UK. We also have a blog with guides and the latest news.

Caring for Your Trading Cards

When starting with trading card games, proper card care matters. Ensuring cards remain in excellent condition prolongs their lifespan and maintains their value.

Efficient card storage is paramount. Start with deck boxes—these containers keep cards organised and protected from physical damage.

Next, card binders work well for larger collections. Select those with padded covers and secure zippers. For instance, ring-binder formats allow for easy reordering of pages, aiding in keeping similar types together—be it Pokémon, Magic: The Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh! cards.

Invest in high-quality sleeves. Card sleeves come in various sizes and types. Perfect-fit sleeves, thin and snug, provide the first layer of defence. Add a standard-size sleeve over this for additional protection.

For decorated cards, consider an extra third layer, often called an over sleeve. This combination seals the card from dust and humidity by positioning the openings opposing each other.

A playmat serves as a dedicated playing surface. Made of soft material, it cushions cards during play, reducing wear. Plus, custom designs add a personal touch. Jack always carries one to tournaments, keeping his cards in top shape.

Cards are susceptible to humidity. Storing them in a cool, dry place is crucial. Desiccant packs can be added to storage boxes and binders to absorb excess moisture. Also, avoid placing cards near windows or areas where temperature fluctuates.

Proper handling preserves cards. Always hold them by the edges. During play, avoid eating or drinking near them to prevent spills and stains.

Joining the Trading Card Game Community

Attending local games and events immerses players in the world of trading card games. Game shops and community centres often host regular meetups, tournaments, and casual play sessions. Checking local event boards, social media groups, and dedicated TCG websites can help discover these gatherings. Most events cater to games like Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Pokemon, ensuring a welcoming environment for various interests.

Consider participating in beginner sessions or open play nights, especially when new to the game. These gatherings offer a lower-pressure setting to learn and practice. Additionally, established players are usually more than happy to share tips and strategies, fostering a supportive community.

Online resources and forums serve as invaluable tools for expanding knowledge and staying connected with the trading card game community. Websites dedicated to specific TCGs provide extensive databases of card lists, deck-building tools, and official news updates. Forums and discussion boards, such as Reddit and TCGplayer, host active communities r/magicTCG and r/yugioh subreddits are great communities for finding people that share your passions.

Engaging in these online discussions helps stay updated with current trends, strategies, and market values. Popular social media platforms, including Instagram and YouTube, also feature content creators who post unboxing videos, reviews, and gameplay tutorials. Watching these can provide practical insights and inspiration for building and refining decks.

Whether seeking local events or online resources, becoming an active member of the TCG community enhances the overall experience, making it more enjoyable and rewarding.

Discord servers like MtGGoldfish and Duelingbook also offer real-time chat with other enthusiasts. These servers often feature dedicated channels for specific games and subjects, creating a well-organised environment for conversation and learning.

Grading Trading cards

Grading trading cards provide an objective assessment of a card's condition and value. Authoritative companies assess the condition of a trading card on a standardized grading scale, typically from 1 (poor) to 10 (gem mint). This process helps protect the card by sealing it in a tamper-evident holder that displays the grade and certification number. Collectors of games like Pokemon, Magic: The Gathering, and Yu-Gi-Oh often seek to grade their rare and valuable cards.

Benefits of Grading

  1. Objective Assessment: Grading offers an objective understanding of a card's condition.

  2. Protection: Encapsulation in a protective case helps preserve the card's state.

  3. Resale Value: Higher grades often lead to higher resale values, especially for gem-mint condition cards.

  4. Authentication: Verification assures buyers of authenticity and prevents counterfeit or altered cards from circulating.

Major Grading Companies

  1. PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator): The largest trading card grader globally.

  2. BGS (Beckett Grading Services): Another significant US-based grading service.

  3. CGC (Certified Guaranty Company): Specialises in grading trading cards and comics.


For UK collectors, utilising US-based grading companies can present complications due to shipping and customs issues. Middleman services like The Sub Center and Black Label Grading handle the logistics of submitting cards to major US graders, thus serving as intermediaries. This makes the submission process more manageable for UK enthusiasts.

Grading fees vary based on the card's value and the chosen service level. Costs can range from £10 for lower-tier services to £100+ for premium services. Turnaround times also differ; premium services might take around 5 business days, whereas regular services could extend to 45+ days. Higher value cards and expedited services generally attract higher fees.

Enjoy Your TCG Journey

Getting started with trading card games can be an exciting and rewarding journey. By choosing the right game and gathering the essential tools and materials, newcomers can quickly get themselves into the TCG world. The final thing to say is enjoy the process, along the way you will meet people and could make great friendships on top of having a great new hobby.