Tropical Beach: The Realities of an Expensive Card in Pokémon

I’m not trying to communicate that I think it’s all around positive to have a really expensive Pokémon card that is critical to some decks functioning (including rogue decks). I think this is a problem that we all must live with, and in the mean time we as a community should look for the positive implications behind this. Tropical Beach demands its high price for a reason, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

TropicalBeach2011

Simple factors dictate the price of a card. How rare the card is, how many people want it, and how good it is. This seems obvious to many of you reading this I’m sure, but it’s still a necessary place to begin the conversation. On the subject of rarity, there are probably close to 1500 English copies of Tropical Beach in existence. No card that is in a set is this rare. Even if you consider full art EX Pokémon, they have regular art counterparts. Rational individuals unwilling to pay the price on the full art version will simply choose to buy or trade for their less expensive counterparts. This isn’t an option with Tropical Beach. The number of people who want this card is high relative to the number that exist. It isn’t primarily collectors like with Tropical Wind or Tropical Tidal Wave, the competitive player base needs this card. Tropical Beach is a game changing card. It’s very good. There is no realistic alternative. If you tried playing Battle City instead of Tropical Beach in your Blastoise/Keldeo/Kyurem deck you’d probably watch your win percentage plummet.

The card is going to retain its current price level because it will continue to be rare. Despite the fact that Pokémon as a company frequently releases tins and those tins have recently included competitive Pokémon, we can’t expect that to happen with Tropical Beach. Why not? If this was the plan, it would have happened already. Various internet sources have made suggestions for Pokémon to try and devalue Tropical Beach and increase its accessibility. If suggestions like making it in a tin or including it in the World Championship Decks had resonated with Pokémon’s release strategy they would’ve taken advantage of that business opportunity already. Even if they reprint the card for Worlds 2013, and Worlds 2014, it will still be incredibly rare.

Layout by Xintetsu on Deviantart. Great proxy in my opinion!

Layout by Xintetsu on Deviantart. Great proxy in my opinion!

Pokémon players will continue to want Tropical Beach. It seems incredibly unlikely to rotate out in September. Realistically, cards rotate out of the modified format but the player base has observed a pattern: cards are typically legal for 3 different World Championships. Mew EX and Gardevoir (Secret Wonders) are good examples. Luxray Level X is the counter example, but keep in mind that Luxray was prevented from seeing his 3rd World Championships because of the unprecedented midseason rotation that happened. There is no tangible chance that in the next week Pokémon announces they’re closing up shop to eliminate organized play from being a factor to keep the demand of Tropical Beach high.

Pokémon and organized play continuing to exist are only relevant factors if Tropical Beach continues to be good, which most indicators point to. Tropical Beach will continue to be a staple in Blastoise and other Stage 2 decks. Based on the information coming out of Japan, Blastoise will still be a relevant deck for Worlds. Also, any Stage 2 deck that doesn’t have an attack to get set up on the first turn is going to want to run Tropical Beach. Virbank City Gym is a nightmare for any deck that doesn’t run Hypnotoxic Laser, and Tropical Beach might just be the best counter stadium possible in those decks for the foreseeable future.

Another less obvious factor is that in addition to Pokémon continuing to exist and Tropical Beach continuing to be played in competitive decks is the idea that Pokémon will still be as much fun as it is now, enough fun to keep other people playing. It is possible that I won’t be competitively playing Pokémon in a year from now (this is true for any Tropical Beach owner). Life can get in the way. Given everything we know right now, we have reason to believe there will continue to be buyers for Tropical Beach in the future.

2012TropicalBeachStaffTropical Beach can be rationalized as an investment (I’m not prepared to argue it is or isn’t a rational investment). It has the potential to increase in value (again, not a guarantee, but a possibility). It’s one thing to spend even $30 on a card, never expecting a return on your investment. It’s simply the cost of playing a trading card game. While many hobbies might have items that cost about $100, it typically isn’t part of the cost of playing Pokémon. Tropical Beach as an investment helps potential buyers overcome this emotional hurdle.

So while Tropical Beach demands a high price, and will likely continue to do so, I think it might be a unique situation. I’m unconvinced this is what Pokémon wanted to happen in terms of their secondary market. My hope is that whatever lesson they take away from the high price of Tropical Beach, the corresponding solution isn’t to continue printing mediocre cards as a prize for qualifying for World Championships. I enjoy seeing good cards. Anything I’m missing on Tropical Beach? Disagree with me completely? Let us know in the comments.

 

  • http://www.facebook.com/aaron.worob Aaron Worob

    Great Article Jimmy! I agree with you completely about Tropical Beach. It’s amazing that they made a Worlds promo that could be considered a staple in some decks.

    I think if anything, it would be really neat to see them print a Full Art version of an existing popular card for Worlds ie a Max Potion. Or special energies(Special Maple Leaf foil pattern for this year). Something cosmetic that qualifiers can show off, but not gain a significant edge.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ChaosJim Jimmy Darwin O’Brien

      Overall, I really like what Tropical Beach does for the game: give decks that don’t have a turn one play the chance to set up and evolve. So for the short term reprinting Tropical Beach might be the way to go. Overall it helps turn the tide against these monstrous big basics with incredible turn one plays.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gabriel.quiroz.315 Gabriel Quiroz

    This is how I always felt. I thought it was awesome that one of the best
    cards available was only given to the people who competed in the world
    championships. It just seems… fitting. I wish they would do this with
    more tournaments. As the tournaments become more frequent and easier to
    win (cities and battle roads) then the cards become less usable but
    still sought after to have.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kujak Karl Kujak

    Great article, I really think they should do some sort of reprint of this card to help players be able to play the deck they want. Even when you have a large budget to make a deck. Throwing more than one tropical beach makes it very expensive. Making it even harder for the game to become more balanced and bring back more stage 2 decks.

    But to that point, I like that they give out useful cards for World Qualifiers. But It might make more sense to give out a card that is already a staple, but Full art version of it. Such as a full art Ultra Ball or something along those lines.

  • Piplup_isPimp

    What if tropical beach were to be rotated?

    • http://www.facebook.com/ChaosJim Jimmy Darwin O’Brien

      It seems so unlikely that it isn’t worth entertaining. Really though, what if? Many people would get mad at Pokémon as a company for devaluing the card (which they refused to do previously) so profusely. Some people would quit or pursue other games.

      • Piplup_isPimp

        For one card? I mean its a good card but I doubt the people who would qiut would even be into pokemon for just tropical beach and they probably don’t own one.

        • http://www.facebook.com/ChaosJim Jimmy Darwin O’Brien

          It isn’t about Tropical Beach, it is about instability. When a group of cards are intentionally devalued, it means that money has flown out of your pocket. People aren’t willing to let that happen repeatedly.

          • Piplup_isPimp

            Repeatedly? Why would this happen to them repeatedly? I hate to repeat myself when i say that tropical beach is only one card, and sets with serval cards worth quite a bit of money have been rotated in the past, so much so that people who play should know that there is always a possibilty that a card could go from $100 to nothing. That being said, those people who would feel like they were being ripped off should have seen it coming after all, every major card game has valuable cards that, with time, become less valuable. My point is that you shouldn’t invest in something that you know could lose its profit and cost you money to start with unless you feel you could change its outcome.

          • Ole-Martinius Yngve Ulberg

            Mewtwo and Darkrai to mention two more… A lot of people baught their Darkrai for Nationals last year, only for it to drop drasticly once the tins came around the comming fall.

          • Kuprin

            Accessibility was in PCL’s core values starting in 2011, and was pushed to TPCi for the TCG. I’m really surprised anyone got shocked by the tins: I was completely prepped for no EX going over $20 after the Mewtwo debacle, and was surprised Virizon/Genesect did what it did. I don’t think Beach is a good cash investment at all, and if I had any left I’d be aiming to hock them before Worlds.

            Pokemon TCG in general isn’t a good long term collectible investment. As someone with several “serial collector” friends (I think there are four black lotuses in my gaming group?) nobody’s really seeing pokemon as an “investment”. Cards that rotate out of Modified lose value FAR too harshly.

            At some point Beach will rotate and stabilize around 30 bucks. Think about that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Apollo1984 Robert A Spence

    its seen 2 seasons so far, unlikely it would make it to a third. honestly though i’m surprised that none of the bw promos have been rotated at all yet, i think it will happen this year.

  • MaMa of Girls

    THANK YOU for the article!

    I feel that having the Tropical Beach card would be very nice for many players & collectors to have.
    BUT, I do see an evolving trend. There are many that cannot afford the ballooning prices to even buy one for their decks to compete at any level up to WORLD play. Is the Tropical Beach card only meant for the “haves”? Because, I see a lot of “hold-outs” (no shares/trades-only selling) from pro players as a block-type strategy towards other strong players (who are newbies) without the TB card. So, then it turns financially difficult for that player to go to any higher levels of play without purchasing the “in demand” card. I think cost and/or card balance would be better for ALL. Any other thoughts on the effect to the “underlings” on this forum??

    • Kuprin

      It really kills the competitive spirit of Pokemon. My area has seen a lot of reduction in playerbase. Between that and the Nationals scandal, the “tier two” competitive players in Canada (people not regularly winning tournaments, but try to/top 16 on a regular basis) have all but completely left the game. I think there are more reasons for that, but I’d honestly say Beach REALLY did a lot of damage to the confidence players have in their chances over the people that have invested more money in winning tournaments.

  • Davis Hamilton

    It’s not a good thing. It’s neat to have super rare AND competitive cards, but there’s one thing you must keep in mind…

    It’s a piece of freakin cardboard. I don’t agree with the overall consensus that “Playing a Trading Card Game should cost an absurd amount of money.” It’s so simple to print, ship, and sell these cheap pieces of cardboard, and it should never be upwards of $200 for a card that many players need.

    As a newer player, this has been the most annoying things I’ve run into, and has almost turned me off of the game completely.

    • Bwahahahaha

      its what they call as rarity~the lesser the quantity and the more useful the thing is, the higher the price to have it, its a business, its a collection for collectors, its a needed (probably staples in decks) card in decks, it can change the current meta and it affect players who strife in making good decks and thus demands are getting higher especially for this kind of card, so its logic to live looking at this piece of a high price card.

  • JD SHOFNER

    I have a huge problem with Tropical beach’s exclusivity. It seems now that unless you go deep into the World Championship, or are a member of its staff, or drop hundreds of dollars on 2 or 3 cards, you cannot play Blastoise or any stage 2 deck competitively. This is because EX’s and Team Plasma are too fast. This was the argument that came up when EX’s first appeared. They were “too fast” and “too powerful” and “I thought evolving was supposed to be important”. Now in the Big Basic Age stage 2 decks are only competitive by dropping hundreds on 2 or 3 cards? I think this is a mistake. I see young people trying to get in the game right now having people tell them “that deck will not work without Tropical Beaches” and that makes me cringe inside. I love PTCG so much and I’m relatively new to the game coming in near the beginning of Boundaries Crossed. I have a Plasma deck full of proxies, outside of the kitchen table and play testing, I can’t use it. I’m waiting for the tins to come out because I can’t afford the current versions of the cards. I have all the parts I need for a Blastoise deck but currently that’s a waste of time because I can’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars on Stadiums (unlike a lot of younger players I have a job and I STILL can’t afford it). I understand that those that earned their TB’s did in fact earn them. You made the top cut at World’s! Way to go! You were on the staff! Thank you! However, your reward for all that hard work is causing a huge portion players and a huge part of this game to suffer. My solution is to simply promo TB in a special collector’s tin ($30 seems like a good price point). The game needs a cheaper alternative. The Tropical Beach World’s Promo is just too expensive and too exclusive and too powerful. By the way I love the The Top Cut and you rock, Jimmy.