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Ultra Prism Set Review: As an Enthusiast (Part 3 of 3)

This is always my favorite part of the review process. Here we get to step back and take a look at this set in its context. What does Ultra Prism tell us about the health of the hobby as a whole? This article will be short because I don’t think Ultra Prism tells us much.

Pokemon is playing it safe.

The set’s print is on par with everything from the modern era. We aren’t seeing any slowdown in product availability. The brief cancellation in products we saw around Christmas time didn’t turn into any sort of policy shift. Collection boxes are slated for constant release in between sets. Those boxes still contain even splits between sets you do want and sets you’re begging not to look at anymore.

Ultra rare counts in this set continue the trend of increasing variety to achieve scarcity. Instead of lowering the number of ultra rares and decreasing their pull rates to make cards difficult to pull, Pokemon continues to have huge numbers of ultra rares in every set. The only challenge to obtaining the cards is if you’re attempting to pull them from packs. Your odds of pulling specific ultra rares are insanely high. Especially if you’re chasing one of the NINE full art trainers in this set. This comes off as obscene for most because, well, it is.

Gold cards are weird because they make it obvious that Pokemon understands there has to be something to truly chase but it also indicates that they have no idea what it is collectors would keep buying packs for. Don’t get me wrong: small children will scream with euphoria if they pull a gold card out of a pack. And that means Pokemon understands the high they’re selling and the addiction is alive and well. But Pokemon yet again misses a chance to capitalize on any established pokemon fandom with a new ultra rare type (Eeveelutions, Charizard, Pikachu) instead shoehorning modern legendaries into the sets. Is Pokemon unaware that these aren’t desirable cards for most well-funded collectors or does it not see that demographic as worthwhile for developing product around? In the world of big corporate Pokemon, no one can say for sure. Either I overestimate the potential for older, more beloved legendaries to appeal to newer generations or Pokemon underestimates the potential opportunity involved in better incorporating the Pokemon “old folks” like into the existing ultra rare buffet.

The general reception of the set seems to be a mix of “It’s just okay” and “At least it isn’t Crimson Invasion.” I like the concept of gold cards but perhaps not this iteration. I find certain rainbow rares within the set to be okay. And I like full art trainers because they’re attractive cards to consistently collect but I don’t really need nine in a single set. These are my thoughts and I think most people agree with me. Ultra Prism is a set you can open if you have packs and you’ll probably pull something you don’t hate but it doesn’t make people want to open more than they were already planning. Part of this is a value problem (opening product is a lottery ticket instead of an investment) but most of it is an audience issue. 

Once again I am left watching Pokemon’s audience mature while its strategy limits itself to checklane children. My enthusiast review is struggling to be enthusiastic. And when I take a step back from Ultra Prism and shave away my own underlying assumption that I like Pokemon cards, I have trouble making myself want this set. This set doesn’t feel timeless. And that’s a scary feeling for people who have a lot invested.

‘til next time,

Charlie Hurlocker