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By Summer of 2000, Pokémon TCG players had grown frustrated. A game that began centered around overpowered Trainer cards and only a few Basic Pokémon had now seen five expansion sets, yet none of them brought much change, instead only reinforcing this trend. All but a few Evolved Pokémon, Jungle’s Wigglytuff being a shining exception, were left sitting in binders instead of decks, while Basic Pokémon continued their domination.

Originally, it was Hitmonchan & Electabuzz, then Scyther and Mewtwo. These strong Basic Pokémon, all of which required no Evolution cards, were hardly the problem, though. In reality, it was the powerful Trainer cards they were paired with that allowed them to be so dominant. Beginning with Base Set, Hitmonchan & Electabuzz relied on Gust of Wind and PlusPower to score easy KOs on Basic Pokémon before they could evolve into their stronger forms. When an opponent finally did manage to evolve any of their Pokémon, they were bombarded by Energy Removal & Super Energy Removal, preventing them from using their best attacks. Given that evolving had always been a central theme of Pokémon (think of the video games or the iconic anime) many players felt like these Trainer cards were preventing the TCG from being played the way it should be played.


Following 2000’s Team Rocket expansion, things only got worse. The set’s strongest Trainer, Rocket’s Sneak Attack, created a format where a player could have their hand stripped of its best cards on the first turn of the game, leaving them vulnerable to a quick loss. These often short, one-sided games became a common theme not only at local tournaments, but also at the 2000 West Coast Super Trainer Showdown, the first major tournament Wizards of the Coast put together.

The Rocket’s Trap was paired with Rocket’s Sneak Attack, allowing players to easily reduce their opponent’s hand size to zero

The power and effectiveness of this aggressive hand-disruption strategy only further increased with the Gym Heroes set that immediately followed Team Rocket. This was attributable to one card, The Rocket’s Trap, which now made it possible to strip an opponent’s entire hand away. As if that wasn’t bad enough, in the following set, Gym Challenge, players were introduced to Erika’s Jigglypuff, a Pokémon seemingly built for first turn KOs. Launching its 40-damage Pulled Punch attack for a single Double Colorless Energy, Erika’s Jigglypuff was loaded with PlusPowers to ruin the day of opponents unfortunate enough to start the game with only one Basic Pokémon in their hand.

The Pokémon TCG had become less fun. Only a small percentage the game’s now 500+ cards were worth using in decks and games seemed to be decided more by the opening coin flip than by actually playing. Hearing the collective frustration of players, Wizards of the Coast sought a solution. They had long shared the belief that the game placed too much emphasis on Trainer cards and not enough on evolving Pokémon. As the second Super Trainer Showdown drew near, Wizards employees tested an idea they had been toying with for months. In October 2000, just one month before the event, Wizards made their dramatic announcement. The second Super Trainer Showdown would use a new format, called Prop 15/3.

Prop 15/3: What Was It?

The rules for Prop 15/3 were simple. All cards would remain legal, but players could play no more than 15 Trainers in their deck. Additionally, players could play no more than 3 (rather than the traditional 4) of any card with the same name, excluding Basic Energy.

The thought process behind this new format made sense. The hyper-aggressive strategies that had taken over the game were enabled by heavy counts of Trainer cards. Limiting decks to 15 Trainers would make it next to impossible for players to rummage through their decks in search of quick wins via cards like Rocket’s Sneak Attack, The Rocket’s Trap and PlusPower. Additionally, with limited space for Trainers, decks could no longer fit heavy lines of Energy Removal and Super Energy Removal. This meant that Evolved Pokémon, which typically had more expensive attacks, finally had a chance of forming winning decks. As the Super Trainer Showdown approached, optimistic players began constructing their decks, hopeful that Prop 15/3 would produce a fun and exciting format full of new decks and strategies.

Prop 15/3 in Action: The 2000 East Coast Super Trainer Showdown

That’s me in the green hat, playing a Mewtwo/Wigglytuff/Clefable deck in Top 8 at the ECSTS

Despite high hopes from the community, Prop 15/3 ultimately turned out to be a disappointment. There were two reasons for this. For one, the format did not create as much variety as hoped. Many of the same Pokémon that had dominated the previous formats were continuing to do well at the Super Trainer Showdown. Pokémon like Mewtwo, Electabuzz, Rocket’s Zapdos and Wigglytuff were all seen at the top tables. The same was true for the Trainers, with players sticking to the same ones they had relied on since Day 1: Professor Oak, Computer Search, Super Energy Removal, etc. The only difference with the Trainers in Prop 15/3 was that players had less of them. However, less of Professor Oak and Computer Search wasn’t necessarily a good thing. These Trainers were still needed to allow players to fully develop their boards and with a maximum of three in each players’ deck, access to Professor Oak became much more hit-or-miss than it had been in Standard. This resulted in a lot of one-sided games where one player found Professor Oak and built multiple strong Pokémon, while the player who never found Oak struggled to do much at all. The end result was that Prop 15/3 games placed a heavy emphasis on whether or not players could ever draw Professor Oak—the ironic reality of a format that attempted to reduce players’ dependence of Trainer cards. For these reasons, Prop 15/3 ultimately proved to be unpopular with players. Wizards of the Coast shared their sentiment. Following the 2000 East Coast Super Trainer Showdown, Wizards never used it again.

A Second Look at Prop 15/3

Officially lasting for only one day, Prop 15/3 was the shortest-lived competitive format in the history of the Pokémon TCG. It came and went so quickly that many players, even those who experienced it at the Super Trainer Showdown, barely remember it. Although it’s widely regarded as a flop, a second look at it proved to me that it wasn’t as bad as players in 2000 made it out to be. While it is true that the limited access to Trainer cards makes decks function less consistently, you can make up for this by adding Pokémon that can assist you in setting up. Kangaskhan and Dark Dragonair were the first that came to my mind, but there’s plenty of other Pokémon that offer ways to boost your deck’s consistency.

Adding these Pokémon to your decks can help you achieve powerful setups of multiple Evolved Pokémon that are sure to overpower your opponent. This is when Prop 15/3 actually becomes pretty fun. And while you’ll still need to endure the occasional Super Energy Removal, it’s much less frequent in Prop 15/3, not to mention you’ll also have more than enough Energy in your deck to withstand it.

Prop 15/3: Legal Sets & Cards

Prop 15/3 includes all sets from Base Set to Gym Challenge, as well as Wizards’ first 24 promo cards:

  • Base Set
  • jungle-symbol Jungle
  • fossil-symbol Fossil
  • team-rocket-symbol Team Rocket
  • gym-heroes-symbol Gym Heroes
  • gym-challenge-symbol Gym Challenge
  • wizards-promo-symbol Wizards of the Coast Promotional Cards #1–24

When constructing decks, remember that the three card limit applies to all cards of the same name (excluding Basic Energy), not just Trainers. Any card you would normally be limited to four of in your deck was limited to three in Prop 15/3.

The Decks

Here’s a look at eight of my favorite Prop 15/3 decks. While some rely on familiar Pokémon, such as Alakazam, Blastoise and Venusaur, Prop 15/3 allows them to join forces with other Pokémon you wouldn’t normally pair them with. Other decks are more unique, relying on Pokémon that would not be viable in an unrestricted Base–Gym format.

Blaine’s Rapidash/Wigglytuff

🏆 Top Deck  🐣 Suitable for Beginners

Pokémon (23)Trainers (15)Energy (22)
3x Blaine’s Ponyta
3x Blaine’s Rapidash
3x Jigglypuff
3x Wigglytuff
3x Magmar
3x Kangaskhan
2x Grimer
2x Muk
1x Scyther
2x Chaos Gym
3x Computer Search
3x Professor Oak
3x Pokémon Trader
2x Gust of Wind
1x Super Energy Removal
1x Scoop Up
14x Fire Energy
3x Double Colorless Energy
3x Full Heal Energy
2x Potion Energy
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Magmar and Kangaskhan both work as great starting Pokémon, helping you buy turns and draw cards to evolve into Blaine’s Rapidash and Wigglytuff. If you’re making progress with Kangaskhan’s Fetch, Chaos Gym can hamper your opponent, allowing you to continue setting up while they are forced to take risky coin flips to match your progress. A 2/2 Muk line is an easy fit into the deck, helping keep the powerful Power-based decks in check.

Dark Alakazam/Dark Vileplume

Pokémon (27)Trainers (15)Energy (18)
3x Abra
3x Dark Kadabra
3x Dark Alakazam
3x Oddish
3x Dark Gloom
2x Dark Vileplume
3x Chansey
3x Mr. Mime
2x Doduo
2x Dodrio
2x Resistance Gym
3x Computer Search
3x Pokémon Trader
3x Professor Oak
3x The Boss’s Way
1x Pokémon Breeder
15x Psychic Energy
3x Double Colorless Energy
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Dark Kadabra’s Matter Exchange will help you achieve the game-winning setup this deck aims to achieve: A Dark Alakazam that can repeatedly Teleport Blast to the Bench where Dark Vileplume protects it from Gust of Wind. After attacking, you can promote either Chansey or Mr. Mime, whichever works best against your opponent’s Active Pokémon. Dodrio’s Retreat Aid allows you to retreat both of these Pokémon for free, preserving your Energy cards so that you can keep the Teleport Blast attacks coming.

Erika’s Venusaur/Erika’s Victreebel

Pokémon (21)Trainers (15)Energy (24)
3x Erika’s Bulbasaur
3x Erika’s Ivysaur
3x Erika’s Venusaur
3x Erika’s Bellsprout
3x Erika’s Weepinbell
2x Erika’s Victreebel
2x Erika’s Clefairy
2x Scyther
1x Celadon City Gym
3x Computer Search
3x Erika’s Maids
3x Professor Oak
3x Super Energy Removal
2x Energy Removal
24x Grass Energy
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Erika’s Victreebel’s Fragrance Trap will allow you to bring weak Pokémon into your opponent’s Active position, while Energy Removal & Super Energy Removal help you strand it there. From there, you’ll want to attack with Erika’s Venusaur, using Wide Solarbeam to spread damage across your opponent’s board. Evolving into this Stage 2 duo is made easy thanks to Erika’s Maids, one of the best Trainer cards you can utilize in Prop 15/3.

Gengar/Brock’s Golbat

🏆 Top Deck 🤡 Fun to Play

Pokémon (23)Trainers (15)Energy (22)
3x Gastly
3x Haunter
3x Gengar
3x Brock’s Zubat
3x Brock’s Golbat
3x Brock’s Mankey
2x Mr. Mime
2x Lickitung
1x Kangaskhan
1x The Rocket’s Training Gym
3x Professor Oak
3x Pokémon Trader
3x Super Energy Removal
2x Computer Search
1x Gust of Wind
1x Erika’s Perfume
1x Item Finder
14x Psychic Energy
3x Double Colorless Energy
3x Potion Energy
2x Full Heal Energy
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Using Brock’s Golbat’s Spiral Dive, you can spread damage across your opponent’s board, then use Gengar’s Curse to move this damage on to whichever Pokémon you’re trying to knock out. With three Brock’s Mankey to use Taunt, you’ll eventually be able to strand a Pokémon in the Active position, allowing Spiral Dive to pile the damage on. Once Golbat has been knocked out, you can rely on attacks like Haunter’s Nightmare or Lickitung’s Tongue Wrap to stall your opponent while Gengar’s Curse finishes off their Pokémon.

Another great thing about this deck is Brock’s Zubat’s Alert attack, which can’t be overlooked in a format where draw cards are limited. Not only will it provide you helpful cards to set up early in the game, but your deck conveniently offers a variety of useful Pokémon to switch into, like free-retreating Mankey or Gastly, or also Pokémon that are difficult to KO, like Mr. Mime or Haunter.

Life Drain

🤡 Fun to Play

Pokémon (24)Trainers (15)Energy (21)
3x Sabrina’s Abra
3x Sabrina’s Kadabra
2x Sabrina’s Alakazam
3x Sabrina’s Venonat
3x Sabrina’s Venomoth
3x Zubat
3x Dark Golbat
2x Sabrina’s Jynx
1x Sabrina’s Mr. Mime
1x Mewtwo
3x Professor Oak
3x Computer Search
3x Pokémon Trader
3x Sabrina’s ESP
2x Super Energy Removal
1x Gust of Wind
8x Psychic Energy
7x Grass Energy
3x Rainbow Energy
3x Double Colorless Energy
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As the name implies, this deck revolves around one attack: Sabrina’s Kadabra’s Life Drain. With a variety of tricks, you’ll be able to ensure a successful Life Drain almost always results in a KO. You could, for example, use Sabrina’s Venonat’s Poison Antennae to poison a Pokémon, making sure it will be knocked out immediately following Life Drain. Alternatively, you could use Sabrina’s Venomoth’s Sonic Distortion to leave a Pokémon Confused. That way, if it fails to attack after Life Drain, it will knock itself out. If a Pokémon survives the turn following a Life Drain, don’t worry—Dark Golbat’s Sneak Attack makes for an easy KO while still allowing you to attack. If that isn’t an option, you still have Dark Golbat’s Flitter attack or Mr. Mime’s Magic Darts, the latter of which can be used by Sabrina’s Alakazam thanks to its Psylink Pokémon Power. Though you’re limited to 15 Trainers, you’ll still want to save space for Sabrina’s ESP, which allows you one chance to re-flip coins for an unsuccessful attempts at Life Drain or Sonic Distortion.

Rain Dance

🏆 Top Deck  🌠 Iconic Deck  🐣 Suitable for Beginners  🤡 Fun to Play

Pokémon (20)Trainers (15)Energy (25)
3x Squirtle
3x Wartortle
3x Blastoise
3x Magikarp
3x Dark Gyarados
3x Articuno
2x Lapras
3x Computer Search
3x Pokémon Trader
3x Computer Error
3x Super Energy Removal
2x Super Potion
1x Professor Oak
25x Water Energy
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Computer Error is a great way to accumulate the large hand you’ll need to go off with Blastoise’s Rain Dance, fueling attacks from Articuno and Dark Gyarados. Your abundance of Energy make it easy to play Super Energy Removal and Super Potion.

Sabrina’s Golduck/Alakazam

🤡 Fun to Play

Pokémon (22)Trainers (15)Energy (23)
3x Abra
3x Kadabra
3x Alakazam
3x Chansey
3x Mr. Mime
3x Kangaskhan
2x Sabrina’s Psyduck
2x Sabrina’s Golduck
3x Computer Search
3x Pokémon Trader
3x Professor Oak
2x Pokémon Center
2x Item Finder
1x Switch
1x Gambler
17x Psychic Energy
3x Double Colorless Energy
3x Rainbow Energy
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The general strategy you’ll employ with this deck is to attack with Mr. Mime, using Alakazam’s Damage Swap to move the 20 damage it takes each turn on to high-HP Pokémon like Chansey. Your more fun attack, however, will almost always be Sabrina’s Golduck’s Damage Shift. By using Damage Swap to place at least 10 damage on all of your Pokémon, you’ll deliver 60 damage each turn, while also healing 60 damage from your board. The long, drawn-out games this deck produces often result in one player decking out, but you can ensure this isn’t you by saving your one Gambler for the end of the game.

Tip: Use Golduck’s Damage Shift to one-hit KO an opposing Mr. Mime. (The damage counters it places aren’t considered damage from an attack, playing around Mr. Mime’s Invisible Wall.)


Pokémon (22)Trainers (15)Energy (23)
3x Bulbasaur
3x Ivysaur
3x Venusaur
3x Doduo
3x Dodrio
3x Kangaskhan
2x Mewtwo
1x Mr. Mime
1x Porygon
3x Computer Search
3x Pokémon Trader
3x Professor Oak
3x Pokémon Center
2x Item Finder
1x Gust of Wind
18x Grass Energy
3x Rainbow Energy
2x Double Colorless Energy
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The combination of Venusaur & Pokémon Center was used long before Prop 15/3, but you’ll find the deck even stronger in this format, where it isn’t battling against as much Energy Removal & Super Energy Removal.

Fun Match-Ups

Here are my favorite match-ups to play in Prop 15/3 since they are close to even and also tend to produce fun and interactive games.

The Neo Sets


With Prop 15/3 scrapped immediately following the East Coast Super Trainer Showdown, the Pokémon TCG was back to square one. Fortunately for players, the upcoming Neo Genesis expansion contained a 30-HP Pokémon that would tone down the aggressive strategies that had all but taken over the game. While Neo Genesis created a more enjoyable and interactive format, the game remained heavily dependent on Trainer cards and Basic Pokémon, leaving Wizards of the Coast to continue searching for a solution to what they still considered a broken game.

Base–Gym | Prop 15/3 | Base–Neo