Ya Gotta Gear Up!!! Pokemon Style.

by Pikkdogs ~ January 8th, 2012.

A big hello to all you OHKOers out there.  This article is for beginners, and it is about the tools that Pokemon players and collectors use.  When you first thought of playing a game, you probably never thought of using things like sleeves, binders, and deck boxes.  But, all these things are very important.  So let’s look at what some random douche, me, has to say about these things.  We will begin by looking at things you  need like randomizers, sleeves, deck boxes, binders, and playmats.

Randomizers/Damge Counters

There is a really good chance that one of the first Pokemon things you ever bought was a theme deck.  Theme decks are nice because they teach you the rules of the game, give you some cards, and give you a rule book with some other stuff.  That “other stuff” contains things like a coin and damage counters.  The coin is a cheap plastic thing, and is very hard to flip.  I have tried to flip those, but I end up either not flipping it or hitting my opponent, more often than I do a successful flip. The damage counters are not much better, they get too messy and obstruct the card so you can’t read it.  The better way to fix these problems is to use dice.

Almost everybody uses dice for both damage counters and randomizers.  When using as a randomizer, you treat evens as heads and odds as tails.  There are a couple rules for using dice as randomizers.  The first rule is that the dice must be transparent and have rounded edges.  To make sure nobody weighs a die so that its finally resting position is on one side, the dice must be see through when you hold it up the light, just so everybody can see there is no weight inside of it.  The die also must have rounded edges on it, I’m not really sure why this is a rule, maybe one of our readers can explain why.  The second rule is that die you use to flips must be different from the ones that you use for damage counters.  This rule is to avoid confusion when your randomizer die lands close to your damage counting dice.

So what kind of dice should beginners purchase?  Well, as long as you follow those 2 rules it doesn’t really matter.  You should be able to walk into any dollar store, Wal Mart, or Target and buy 8 black and white dice for pretty cheap.  These will be your damage counting dice, because more than likely they will not be rounded or transparent.  Now you just need your flippy dice.  For this you should go to a card shop (you can get them online, but they are more expensive and its hard to know exactly what they are without holding them in your hand), most card shops have them for about a buck.  You can get a fancier deck with like 50 sides, but just stick with a see through dice with the normal 6 sides.  You can get character dice online if you really want, but most people just use normal dice.


Sleeves are necessary for tournament play.  They protect your cards, distinguish your cards from others, and prevent people from marking their cards.  There are a lot of people who play a lot of card games, and they all fight about what sleeves are the best.  The debate gets really heated, and sometimes they talk to me saying, “Pikkdogs, what were you just doing in the bathroom with that hooker?  And, what sleeves do you like the best?”  I personally do have a favorite sleeve brand, but what I like doesn’t really matter to you, all that matters is the type of sleeve that is best for you and your play style.  There are few rules that govern the use of sleeves at tournaments.  Most tournaments will require your sleeves to be opaque and no reflective.  If you have a hard time picking out legal sleeves, ask other players or your local judges.  They will tell you what sleeves are legal in your area.

It all comes down to how you shuffle.  If you use the 6 pile shuffle and then do some vertical shuffling, you probably can use Ultra Pro Sleeves.  Ultra Pro Sleeves are nice because they are really cheap and have a lot of cool Pokemon related art.  At nationals this past year, I think most Team Omar members got a pack of Ultra Pro sleeves for less than 5 bucks.  So Ultra Pro does make some cool and cheap sleeves.

However, I don’t 6 pile or vertical shuffle, I like to fan shuffle.  And if I were to fan shuffle with an Ultra Pro deck, I would break at least 1 sleeve for each shuffle I did.  So I prefer to use Dragon Shield or Mat sleeves (don’t know what the brand name is on the Mat sleeves, I think they’re a Japanese company).  They are a little more expensive, but they are durable and come in packs of 80-100.  I love Dragon Shields because they are very hard to break and last for a long time.  At the beginning of a Battle Road or Cities season I usually buy 200 Dragon Shield sleeves, and those last for how many ever tournaments I go into that season.

Ultra Pros and Dragon shields are the most popular brand of sleeves, but there are others.  Some people play with a myriad of Japanese sleeves they buy online, I haven’t tried every brand, but they do seem fairly durable.  Nintendo also used to pass out sleeves of their own at Pre-Release tournaments.  If you can get your hands on these, they aren’t bad.  Not as flimsy as Ultra Pros, but not as durable as Dragon Shields.  However, you only get 60 of them, so if one breaks, you are screwed.

For protection purposes, you can get clear sleeves for about a penny each at most shops that sell cards.  They are not legal in  most tournaments, but are good for shipping cards that you have traded away.

Deck boxes

You don’t really need a deck box, but they make playing a lot easier.  They keep your cards safe in one spot, and don’t allow others to see what you are playing.  There are many kinds of deck boxes, but most of them accomplish the job the same way.

Your first deckbox will probably be the box that you bought your sleeves in.  Even though the Dragon Shields box is cardboard, it can still function as a deck box, for a little while anyway.  It will eventually take a little abuse and fall apart, so let’s look at something made of plastic.

Ultra Pro makes good deck boxes that are sold in most card shops for less than 5 bucks.  They come in a variety of colors and are very sturdy.  I have had these kinds of boxes for years and they never break.  They are just good and sturdy.  An excellent choice for any beginner.

Nintendo gives out deck boxes at every Pre-Release for no extra cost.  They have some really cool set related artwork, and work very well as deck boxes.  The problem is that they are very cheap and break about as easily as cardboard ones.  The top of the box will snap off after just a couple uses, so they are not very durable.

Nintendo also makes some good deck boxes and sells them in Pokemon Centers in Japan, and in a few certain select U.S. cities.  They usually have awesome artwork and do not break as easily as the Pre-Release ones.  They are an excellent choice if you can find and afford one.  There are of course other deck boxes avaliable online that are cool,  but are fairly expensive.


Binders are the best way to show off your more expensive and desirable cards to people who are looking to buy or trade.  These or your normal three ring binders that people who collect baseball cards use.  You can find them in almost any shop for a reasonable price, and buy plastic pages for fairly cheap.

Now these things will work great at a great price, but most people find them boring.  So there are other options.  Nintendo does make binders for their professors and for players that are given away as prizes throughout the year.  They are pretty much like your sport card binder, except that they have Pokemon characters on them.  They are really cool and fairly sturdy.  As long you don’t over stuff them with pages, like I do, it will last you a long time and be a great item for you.

But, the best binders seem to be the Monster Binders.  I have not tried these binders myself, but I hear they are no doubt the best.  They are made by a German company, and use pages that open on the side rather than the top.  This is a great advantage, because a lot of the times cards will slip out of the top 3 slots in normal binders.  They keep your cards in the best condition, and are the coolest binders out there.  However, they are more expensive.  So if you stick to whatever you can cheaply find, you can dedicate more resources to buying more cards!


Playmats are small pieces of fabric that you can put down on the playing surface, and put all of your cards on that mat.  The advantage of using a mat is that it looks cool, it will give you a clean surface to play on, and the cards don’t get really sticky like they do on a table when it is humid.  You don’t need a playmat to play this game, but most people do end up picking one up.  They are fairly expensive, anywhere from about 20 bucks to about 50 bucks for a good quality one.  I have a really cool Pikachu mat that I bought on Ebay, but I stopped using it because a lot of tables were too short for me to use them.  That is one of the drawbacks of Pokemon becoming so popular, your playing space get’s really cramped.  So you can choose to use them, or not, but if you do I have a little info on them.

The most common playmats are those made by Nintendo for professors.  They give them out every once in a while as prizes.  If you find them for sale in the secondary market, they are usually around 20 bucks or so.  They usually have cool Pokemon art work, and have every bit the quality that other mats have.

But, if you want something that isn’t so common, you can head to EBay and get some mats there.  These are usually made by artists who are looking to make a couple extra bucks on the side.  They are usually fairly expensive, but they have art that isn’t featured anywhere else.  You for sure will be the only kid on your block with this type of artwork on your mat.  Just for being cool, these are probably the best kind of mats.  Of course, some people use mats from other games like Magic or Yu-Gi-Oh, but most people like to play Pokemon on a Pokemon mat.


Well that’s all I got to say.  If any of the more experienced readers would like to add on to what I have wrote, I would appreciate it.

So long and thanks for all the fish!

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