The Pokemon Trading Card Game recently added powerful new Tag Team cards, but some questions remain about how Pokemon are chosen to appear on these cards. While normal Pokemon cards only represent one Pokemon, the Tag Team-GX cards represent a pair of two Pokemon whose combined moves do more damage than even the most powerful "normal" Pokemon cards. These cards are literal game-changers, but they come at a cost. Losing one of your Tag Team-GX cards in battle costs a player three prizes instead of the usual one or two, which amounts to half your prize count and is often the difference between victory and defeat.
To find out more about how these Tag Team-GX cards are conceived, ComicBook.com spoke with Atsushi Nagashima, the Game Director of the Pokemon Trading Card Game, and Pokemon Trading Card illustrator Mitsuhiro Arita via email about how they decided on which Pokemon to include in Tag Team-GX cards for the upcoming Unified Minds expansion of the game. The new cards include powerful duos like Mewtwo & Mew and Espeon & Deoxys, along with more unusual pairings like Psyduck & Slowpoke. Scroll down to get a look at the cards along with explanations from Nagashima and Arita about why these particular Pokemon were chosen for these cards.
ComicBook.com: Why did you pick Mega Sableye as the first Mega Evolution Pokemon to be featured with a Tag Team Card?
Atsushi Nagashima: We wanted to feature a Mega Evolution Pokémon that we weren’t able to release during the XY Series. Rather than releasing it as a normal card, we thought it would be more fitting if it was a special card such as a TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX, so we waited for the right time. From a gameplay perspective, we needed a Darkness type, so we decided to release a Darkness-type Mega Sableye that hadn’t appeared as a Mega Evolution Pokémon (in the Pokémon TCG). We chose Tyranitar, a strong Darkness-type Pokémon, as its partner.
While Slowpoke and Psyduck seem like an unlikely pair for a Tag Team GX card, the pair have a GX attack that can potentially do 1000 damage! What was the reasoning behind giving these two Pokemon such a devastating attack?
Nagashima: We had been thinking about having these two Pokémon team up since the initial concept of TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX. There’s a tendency for powerful Pokémon to be featured, but we also wanted to show cute Pokémon or Pokémon that you might wonder about how they would behave in action.
These two Pokémon typically seem to be spacing out, but they can produce huge power when they are in a tough spot.
It seems like the artwork on several of these cards tell a story - for example, Giratina and Garchomp GX shows Giratina carrying Garchomp as the pair fly through the air. Why pair these two Pokemon together and why was this card image chosen?
Mitsuhiro Arita: When we are coming up with ideas for TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX, we consider aspects such as whether the pair will be intuitively exciting, the story behind the two Pokémon, the synergy that lies beyond the friendship or the rival relationship, the multiplicative effects of two similar Pokémon, and what kind of combos they may unleash. We solicit ideas from within the company, with a focus on interesting combinations and stories, before making a choice. We also keep in mind stuff like whether it’s a combination of Pokémon that matches our concept from important game data.
We considered something like 100 variations of TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX, even though they won’t become products.
When it comes to art, I was asked to draw the “double-rare” TAG TEAM cards as though they were all in the same space. However, Giratina (Origin Forme) is in the Distortion World, flying through the sky. Garchomp is generally seen on the ground in our world. So this was a difficult pairing to set up, from the aspect of them being together in a dualistic sense.
Not only in the case of a TAG TEAM, but when it comes to card design as a whole, I’m asked to make it easy to tell what the Pokémon looks like. Even if the Pokémon’s appearance or expression seems interesting in the setting, there are plenty of times I have had to pass up on a given setting from the perspective of making it easy to tell what’s going on. However, if I’m able to illustrate with certainty and persuasiveness, it can lead to expressing a new kind of appeal or result in the image being memorable, so personally I’m always looking for opportunities to push myself like that.
For this image, I chose to depict Garchomp in flight mode, which is pretty far from what it looks like in its official art, so I could provide a surprise to those who don’t know about this aspect of Garchomp—that it looks like this when it flies—while also solving the ground-and-sky issue. By the way, for the illustration on the wrapper of the booster pack, in which it needs to be even easier to tell what’s going on, I depicted Garchomp leaving flight mode in midair to attack, in order to differentiate that art from the art on the card itself.
In terms of the Distortion World and our world, the setting is such that Giratina is in the Distortion World, a different world from where Garchomp is. Even if the concept is that the two Pokémon fight as a TAG TEAM, there was the issue of their being in different worlds. And I wanted the viewer to feel uncertain about which space the Pokémon are in. So, in the gradation from the bottom of the image, I tried to evoke a sense that something is a little off by using slightly unexpected colors than those seen in natural sky colors. I want the viewer to freely wonder whether Giratina and Garchomp are in the Distortion World or our world.
Both Espeon and Umbreon appear in separate Tag Team GX cards, and Eevee and Sylveon have appeared in previous Tag Teams. Is the Eevee Pokemon family being featured because of Pokemon: Let's Go, or is there another reason why so many Tag Teams have Eevee or its evolutions?
Atsushi Nagashima: We used Eevee for Eevee & Snorlax-GX because it’s the Pokémon featured in Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! and it’s popular. However, the other Eevee Evolutions were each picked for different reasons.
We had planned to make Psychic-type and Darkness-type TAG TEAM cards, so we decided to use Espeon and Umbreon since they embody that pairing.
We used Sylveon for Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX because we considered that to be the cutest combination when we were coming up with possibilities for TAG TEAM cards.
We are still thinking about whether other members of Eevee’s evolutionary line might appear in the future.
Mewtwo and Mew will appear as rivals in the upcoming Pokemon the Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back EVOLUTION movie. Why pair the Pokemon together as allies? And is there a reason why the two appear to be battling in a lab setting?
Atsushi Nagashima: Part of the TAG TEAM concept is that we can get the co-stars of our dreams, and these two Pokémon have such a deep connection, so we really wanted to show them fighting together.
Although they have battled each other in a movie, they seem like they’d be extremely encouraging pals if they were paired up.
The story in the illustration is related to Mewtwo-GX from Shining Legends. The illustration in Shining Legends was so good that we wanted the rest of that story to be drawn. But before we could even mention it, Mr. Arita, who was handling that art, had already drawn something showing that Mew had come to the aid of Mewtwo.